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Pedestrian accidents spike in Pa. town

At least eight incidents have been reported on a Waynesboro, Pa., street since Jan. 1, 2004.

At least eight incidents have been reported on a Waynesboro, Pa., street since Jan. 1, 2004.

August 19, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Michael Lee Besecker Jr. remembers running down Frick Hill to where the woman he loves was pinned by a car.

Four people pried the rear door off Jackie Hettenschuller's legs that afternoon and dragged her onto the grass outside the couple's Phillips Avenue home.

There, Jackie tried to calm her 3-year-old daughter while emergency workers called for a helicopter.

"All I remember was seeing her crying and saying, 'Mommy, mommy, mommy,'" she said.

The 27-year-old woman had been struck by a car that witnesses said crossed lanes and continued another block before stopping. Jackie, who would marry Michael Besecker a year and a half later, remembers little about the Feb. 28, 2006, accident.

"When they drug me onto the grass, I just remember I was really cold," she said when interviewed in the couple's new home earlier this month. "When I got into the ambulance, I just wanted to go to sleep."

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The Cadillac convertible struck Jackie on Pa. 16, a road that is traveled by between 11,000 and 16,000 vehicles daily in the Waynesboro borough limits. The driver was charged with careless driving.

At least eight pedestrian accidents have been reported on the street since Jan. 1, 2004.

"As far as an answer to 'why,' I don't know," Police Chief Ray Shultz said.

The Waynesboro Borough Council has, for some time, been talking about ways to improve pedestrian safety. Public pressure for action has increased in the wake of 10 pedestrian accidents this year.

The Beseckers, lifelong residents of the area, contend that accidents could be prevented if the borough would install blinking lights or put neon signs in the middle of crosswalks. Police patrols are sporadic, they said.

"I don't think the borough is doing the things that need to be done," Michael Besecker said.

Waynesboro recently asked the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for so-called channelizing devices, which are neon freestanding signs for the middle of crosswalks, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

"The state has run out of the free signs," he said.

Crosswalks have undergone their annual painting in recent weeks.

Jackie Besecker said she feels cell phone use while driving and increased traffic on overburdened roads contribute to accidents.

Factors in accidents can be driver distraction, pedestrian overconfidence that vehicles will stop and poor sight distance around a crosswalk, often from vehicles parked nearby, Shultz said.

While pedestrian accidents are by no means only a Waynesboro issue, police in the Borough of Greencastle, eight miles to the west, report that they had only two pedestrian accidents since early 2004.

"We'd have more than Greencastle I'd believe because of the size, population, probably a greater number of vehicles," Shultz said.

Statewide, fewer crashes were reported each year between 2000 and 2005. While PennDOT statistics show the state was down to 4,763 pedestrian accidents in 2005, the figures also showed that 162 pedestrians died as a result of those accidents.

In 2005, PennDOT reported that 406 people were involved in accidents while "standing" or "approaching/leaving a vehicle." Among them was Jackie, who had just buckled her daughter into a child safety seat.

The severity of injuries varies from one accident to another, but Waynesboro has had two fatalities in the past year.

"They're dying, and it makes me feel lucky to live," Jackie Besecker said.

In fact, she said, she was grateful she was involved in the accident and not a child.

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