Firefighters and deputies help a pedestrian hit by a vehicle at M-15 and Washington Street. Photo by Phil Custodio
BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Denise Engelberts was in her car at Main and Washington streets when she heard brakes slam and a woman scream.
“A lady screamed, ‘Oh my God,'” said Engelberts, an ad representative for The Clarkston News. “A man jumped out of the truck and ran to a woman, lying down in the road. I ran in here and yelled, ‘dial 911.'”
The pedestrian was hit by a pickup truck in the intersection, Friday morning, July 28.
“Be careful when walking – drivers are not always going to be paying attention,” said Mayor Steven Percival, who was at city hall and ran to the intersection immediately when he heard of the accident. “For drivers, be vigilant. We have more people walking downtown.”
The pickup driver was turning left from Washington onto Main Street when the walker was struck. Independence Township firefighters and Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies soon arrived, and the woman was conscious when firefighters put her in a neck brace and gurney, and loaded her in the ambulance.
“The person in that pedestrian accident had minor injuries, and was transported as a precaution,” said Staff Lt. Don Herbert, Independence Township Fire Department.
Pedestrian safety has been a focus of city government lately, along with parking issues, said City Manager Jonathan Smith.
The city manager is meeting with Michigan Department of Transportation on several pedestrian safety issues on M-15, a state route.
“The number of people downtown has definitely increased in the last year due to a combination of activities,” Smith said. “We’re glad to see that but we all have to be cautious.”
There are one or two pedestrian injuries from motor vehicles in the city every year, Herbert said.
“Thankfully, they are generally low speed, with minor injuries,” he said. “As foot traffic increases in downtown, due to more and more commerce, the village may need to increase the visibility of pedestrian crosswalks.”
For M-15 and Washington, the city is looking into changing pedestrian walk signals from button activated to automatic, and keeping signals active later into the evening. Currently, traffic signals start flashing for the night at 10 p.m., Smith said.
“When the lights start flashing, the walk buttons stop working,” the city manager said. “At 10 p.m., pedestrians are still crossing the road. They definitely need to move to midnight, possibly 2 a.m.”
Improved no-turn-on-red signs are also being considered, as well as road markings for loading zones.
They’re also working with MDOT and Independence Township on an M-15 crosswalk at Middle Lake Road, where children cross the state route and two were struck over the past couple years.
The city installed a new crosswalk with a spring-loaded yield-to-pedestrian sign on Main Street at Church Street this past March. Additional signs are being considered for the Washington and Waldon intersections as well.
According to state law, vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or when a pedestrian is approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to be in danger. Pedestrians may not suddenly leave the curb and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle so close the vehicle is unable to yield. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk at an intersection, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Responses to the pickup/pedestrian accident on Facebook include:
Eric Lee There’s a difference between common sense and law. Common sense says take responsibility for your life into your own hands, but we don’t all have common sense. The law is the law and we’re all supposed to obey it and the law says that no matter what pedestrians have the right of way, at least in Michigan.
Shayla Lace Being a driver through downtown, you should always look. There are people constantly waking through. It’s so congested … everyone driving is in such a hurry. I wish everyone would just slow down.
Laura Rejniak Based on what I see here, it is applicable when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, and even then it has to be the same half of the crosswalk the vehicle is in.
Heather Young I absolutely hate driving in downtown, it’s gotten too big and too crazy for how small it is! How many more will need to get hurt before they wake up?
Kris Walker My least favorite place to cross the street. That’s why I do it on the other side.
Ben Hawley The problem is that the pedestrians just walk out in front of cars without any caution, you can’t expect a car to yield if there’s no time.
Heather Marie Dost If they were in the cross walk with a white walk sign the pedestrian had the right of way! Drivers have a huge responsibility to watch for pedestrians in a cross walk.
Sidnie Jean I’m inclined to agree because you can’t trust anyone but legally the pedestrian has the right of way here I believe.
JoAnne Jurkiewicz Broda My daughter was nearly hit while on her bicycle-I hate driving through town-drivers are going too fast, talking on phones, and ignoring the fact there are a lot of people walking around-it is pure madness!
Sue Harrison Wylie This is terrible for the pedestrian! I would like to see an X-crosswalk at this location. All pedestrians cross at the same time while all cars stop for a red light. If you’re familiar with Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, you’ve seen one. I hope now MDOT will give this serious consideration.
Heather Myers Muzzy I lived in Athens Ohio for 5 years. Worked at Kinkos on that left corner for over a year. Northbound is one way only. Very safe. Very, very pedestrian town and no recollection of anyone getting hit including the larger number of stumbling drunks. Bikers always had to walk sidewalks. I lived 1 mile off campus and it was faster to ride and lock up than find a parking spot/ pay a meter almost all year long … but the weather is way more mild.