Wilmington addresses roadway risks after several people have been hit by cars this year

Wilmington addresses roadway risks after several people have been hit by cars this year

Pedestrian-vehicle and cyclist-vehicle incidents have been prevalent in Wilmington recently.

In January, a 16-year-old was hit by a car and sustained non-life threatening injuries after William Logan Buck, 19, allegedly hit him on purpose.

The same month, a 50-year-old man was hit by a truck and killed in Wilmington at Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road. The man was walking in front of the Station Five Wilmington Fire Department and made it to the center lane before being struck.

In March, a bicyclist died after being hit by a car on South College Road. He was in an area that did not have a marked crosswalk or stoplights and was wearing dark clothing.

Pedestrian killed: Person hit, killed by a truck in Wilmington while walking

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In May, there have been two fatal hit-and-runs: Richard Cathey was hit and left on the road near South College Road and Wilshire Boulevard on May 1 and a 17-year-old girl died Sunday after being hit by a car and left in the middle of Martin Luther King Parkway and Kerr Avenue.

Both happened around 2 a.m. during a weekend at heavy-traffic areas of town.

"Neither one of these happened in a crosswalk," said Wilmington Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Leslie Irving.

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Irving said these incidents can't be predicted, but added people also need to take accountability for their behaviors.

For example, she said alcohol was a factor for both parties in the South College Road hit-and-run.

"Don't let friends drive drunk," Irving said. "It takes a village and we all play a part in these incidents."

Irving said police are still investigating the hit-and-run resulting in the death of the 17-year-old girl and what she was doing walking in the middle of the road.

"Just stop and call 911," Irving said. "Whether it's car, or a human being. We have no idea what people who hit someone and drives off is thinking, as that's a life. I can't imagine." 

On May 14, firefighters from Wilmington Fire Department Station 9 placed "STOP LOOK GO" stencils down on the Cross City Trail between the Wrightsville Beach bridge and Military Cutoff Road as well as in front of Station 9.

The Wilmington Fire Department Facebook post said they partnered with the city of Wilmington to identify dangerous intersections and crosswalks on the trail. 

The message they want to get out is: "Please remember to look both ways before crossing the road and always use crosswalks when available. Motorists, watch for pedestrians at all times!"

The fire department said the stencils are just in this area right now, but each station will have the opportunity to use the stencil in any areas they see fit.

Wendy Giannini-King, Wilmington Fire Department community risk reduction coordinator, said whether it's cycling, walking or driving, Wilmington is an exceptionally "mobile city."

"We have a lot of cars and walkers," she said.

According to Giannini-King, "STOP LOOK GO" has been around for a couple years now. She said its purpose was to help drive the message to help prevent accidents by reducing the risk of pedestrians and motor vehicles interacting with each other.

"Look up and be alert," Giannini-King said. "Don't drink and drive and don't text while driving."

Giannini-King said the fire department does what they can where they see a lot of incidents. She said several stations utilize the "STOP LOOK GO" stencil including Station 5, 9 and 10.

Giannini-King declined to comment on whether these messages have reduced people being hit by cars and said the Wilmington Police Department takes the lead on the hit-and-run side especially.

"My job is just to reduce risk in the city," Giannini-King said. "But we are all in this together. Not every accident is a hit-and-run, but we can certainly reduce risk of pedestrians, vehicle, and biking incidents."

There are a few campaigns in Wilmington that are aimed at pedestrian safety: Be A Looker, Watch for Me NC and Go Coast.

Nick Cannon, transportation demand management coordinator for the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the public has expressed a lot of interest in increasing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and connectivity.

Wilmington residents also turned to the Wilmington NC Community Facebook page to express pedestrian-vehicle incidents as one of the top public safety issues in the city. 

One resident wrote they would like it if Wilmington was more pedestrian friendly with more sidewalks and crosswalks. Another resident wrote they feel texting and driving as well as hit-and-runs are top issues in Wilmington.

"This is clearly something people in the Wilmington Urban Area want more of," Cannon said. "We have more people who want to bike or walk to work or school, to the grocery store, or just around their community on a nice day."

Cannon said by educating people on rules of the road, programs like Be A Looker aims to decrease the number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes and fatalities in the region.

"As we make our way out of the pandemic, there are also numerous community events planned to teach individuals the meaning of Be A Looker and offer specific lessons of how to be a safe motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian." 

Reporter Krys Merryman can be reached at 910-343-2272 or kmerryman@gannett.com.

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