A May spate of pedestrians hit by cars in Mt. Juliet is a wakeup call that bikers, walkers and motorists need a heightened awareness and partnership to share our roads.
In an unprecedented five days last month, Mt. Juliet Police reported three pedestrians were involved in incidences where they were struck by cars. Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said he was alarmed and noted investigations into the trio of accidents revealed none of the drivers were at fault. However, he did note not only were the pedestrians obviously affected, but also the drivers unable to shake off the reality of what happened.
"All motorists, walkers and cyclists have to be aware and understand their surroundings," he said. "We tell motorists to pay attention and not text or be distracted. We try to educated pedestrians as they are walking or biking they need to be attentive as well, especially crossing the street."
Getting around 'green' is growing popular
'Green travel,' whether it be walking or biking, has increased in the last few years. Walking, running and bicycling to stay active, run errands, and as an alternative to the daily drive to work is growing popular in Mt. Juliet and beyond.
According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, as more people leave their cars and trucks behind, pedestrian and cyclist deaths in motor vehicle-related crashes has increased.
In 2015, motor vehicle related crashes claimed the lives of 5,376 pedestrians in the U.S. This is an increase of 9 percent over 2014 - and injured are an estimated 70,000 people, according to NHTA. Their reports say deaths among bicyclist rose by 10 percent last year.
Their mantra is, "No one -no driver, cyclist, or pedestrian has sole rights to the road. It is a shared space where we all have rights and responsibilities.
An example in Mt. Juliet
Chief Hambrick said he doesn't remember in his long years in law enforcement when cars hit three citizens within five days in Mt. Juliet.
"I do get calls of people who said they almost got hit by a car," he said. "Last month was unusual, but with the growth, and more cars, and more people choosing to get around 'green' things are going to happen if people do not take this seriously."
Luckily, the three-recorded incidents in Mt. Juliet did not result in any fatalities.
"Each incident has their own set of unusual circumstances that led up to the crash, and none of the drivers have contributing factors," said MJPD Lt. Tyler Chandler.
The first incident was on May 7 last month. Lance Stacy, 29, of Lebanon, tried to cross North Mt. Juliet Road several times. A driver struck him and he landed on the right shoulder. According to the police report, the manager of a nearby restaurant stated the pedestrian had been drinking alcohol and skipped out on this bill.
The second incident happened May 9 at 6:30 a.m. at the Exxon station at 125 North Mt. Juliet Road. It happened in the parking lot when William Rainey, 25, of Dickson, exited a pickup truck driven by Jonathan Cantrell, 44, of Charlotte, according to the police report. Rainey bent down to adjust his shoe and Cantrell accidently pulled away and hit him. Rainey was transported to Summit Medical Center with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. Hambrick said this was rare, but illustrates how important it is to be aware at all times.
The third incident happened May 12, just after 9 p.m. at the intersection of Lebanon Road and North Mt. Juliet Road. It happened in the travel lanes between Mapco and Walgreens when a 13-year-old girl, according to the police report, was with friends in the Mapco parking lot and "decided to dart across traffic to Walgreens." A 47-year-old woman struck the girl and made "all efforts to avoid hitting" the pedestrian. The girl was transported to Summit Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
It's a simplistic, repeated mantra, but life saving, said Hambrick.
"With increased traffic, technology such as cell phones with talking and texting, people are not paying attention, and they need to pay close attention to pedestrians. And likewise," Hambrick said. "Inattentiveness can cause the loss of a life."
Hambrick said for years the terrible scenario of a kid darting into the street after a wayward ball has happened. But these days, real world distractions can turn a quick stomp on brakes by an alert driver to something much worse. And, pardon the pun, it's a two way street when it comes to responsibility of pedestrians and drivers.
"People walking and biking need to step up and be aware," Hambrick said. "Ownership on this issue is not just on motorists, but also walkers and bikers. They need to follow the same rules for vehicles."
Hambrick said he hears the argument, "But, I had the right-of-way!"
"Well, if you have the right-of-way, that doesn't mean you have the right to be killed," he said. "It's about sharing, alertness."
Hambrick noted several tips for both drivers and pedestrians and bikers, but said generally, overall, there "should be no distractions and a realization you are not the only one on the road way.
"As we enter into the summer, there are more people walking and biking," he said. "We need a safe summer. People should just be mindful of their surroundings."
Commissioner's close call
Mt. Juliet District 3 commissioner and BPAC (Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee) president Art Giles actively trumpets the need for more greenways and sidewalks in Mt. Juliet. His group is responsible for millions in grants to further Mt. Juliet's alternative transportation routes.
However, he's also quite vocal and echoes Hambrick's mantra of "awareness" of both "green" travelers and motorists.
"The key to the whole thing is awareness," he said this week. "As more people utilize green transportation for recreation we've got to be aware of the possibility of a walker or cyclist coming in front of our car."
Giles has two scary, bad examples of this, he said. One night a car cut "way too close in front of me coming from Industrial Drive [near City Hall in Mt. Juliet]," he said.
The other, more serious incident, happened in January, he said, in North Mt. Juliet. A driver was coming from Kroger at the light, ready to turn and when Giles got the go-ahead with the signal to cross, the car nearly hit him.
"I literally had to hit the hood of the car to make it stop," he said. "I've learned if a car going slow hits you, it drags you under. If it's faster you are thrown up on it."
Giles said the passenger in the car jumped out and screamed they didn't see him.
"I had been standing there a long while waiting," he said.
He said the incident scared him and "blew" his mind.
"It blew all our minds," he said.
Psychological damage on both sides
No one, generally, ever means to hit a pedestrian with their car. Tragically, we can't discount the recent terrorists intentionally plowing into crowds. But, generally, it's an accident, again, discounting someone under the influence who is impaired and responsible. In cases of a car colliding with a person because of distraction on one or the other side, according to Hambrick, there are long lasting emotional scars along with possible physical ones and even death. In one incidence, a prominent business person was going through a school zone and nearly hit a student. There was no contact, but the man was so traumatized about what could have happened, he never was behind the wheel again.
Hambrick recalled a time at an accident scene when someone hit and killed a pedestrian.
"To this day they are still dealing with it, and the guilt," Hambrick said. "Striking a pedestrian affects all tremendously. Nobody wants to be responsible for a death or injury."
It all comes down to being aware, responsible and alert, all professionals concurred.