The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents has increased significantly this year in Richmond County.
Three recent deaths brought the total to 13, the highest number in at least two years.
“It’s a growing issue with us,” Coroner Mark Bowen said.
Demarcus Simmons, 34, was killed Saturday in the 3600 block of Deans Bridge Road when he attempted to cross the northbound lanes and was struck by a vehicle in the left through lane. Simmons, who had been a passenger in a vehicle parked on the side of road when he tried to cross, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Matthew C. Smith died Sunday night from injuries he sustained Dec. 21 after he was struck by a vehicle as he attempted to cross the center lane in the 3600 block of Peach Orchard Road. Jeremiah Joel Douse, 5, died Monday afternoon from multiple blunt injuries he sustained after he and his adult uncle attempted to cross Tobacco Road at Raintree Drive on Dec. 21.
Bowen said the deaths were “tragic” and sparks concerns for pedestrian safety.
“It’s hard to tell a parent that they lost a child,” he said. “All you know is that they’re going to suffer a great pain.”
The incident that led to Douse’s death is still under investigation. Mike D’ Amico with the sheriff’s Traffic Division said indications from witnesses show the driver not at fault in the incident.
“But it’s still a burden that they have to carry even though it’s not their fault,” he said.
This year’s total is a major jump from last year when only one was reported. In 2015, the total was five.
D’Amico found the main contributing cause for the 2017 increase to be failure to use crosswalks.
“What we have seen is that they’re not occurring in the same place. They’re all over different parts of the county,” D’Amico said. “But what is common is that they are typically occurring after dark in areas other than a crosswalk.”
In fact all 13 of the fatalities involved pedestrians crossing a congested area at or near the middle block of the road. Nearly half of them list alcohol as a contributing factor, D’Amico said.
“Seven out of the 13 pedestrains were either intoxicated or seemed to be intoxicated,” he said.
A campaign has already been launched to hopefully make a difference as the new year begins.
“We’ve been putting out public service announcements (on social media and the radio) for several weeks trying to educate residents about pedestrain safety,” D’Amico said. “I also initiated that we step out and speak to these folks as they’re crossing the streets to let them know that it might not be illegal but it could cost you your life.”
But the warning is not only to those on foot.
“Drivers need to be aware of pedestrains as well,” D’Amico said. “If everybody is aware of each other that would go a long way to reduce numbers.”