Roanoke pedestrian’s death part of grim regional trend
According to data recently released by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, more than three times the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the Roanoke area this year compared to last year.
As of November 14, 18 people had been killed in accidents in the region, according to a press release. At the same time last year, only five pedestrians had been killed.
A cross and flowers mark the spot on Salem Turnpike where one of these deaths occurred.
Maurice “Lamont” Baker, 42, of Roanoke, was walking this dual carriageway in Roanoke on Thanksgiving Day when his family says he was hit by a car. Police found his body the next morning.
Cases of other types of traffic-related deaths have decreased compared to 2021, including deaths where drivers or passengers were unbelted or distracted. And while alcohol-related deaths are up 8.3% and motorcycle deaths are up 20%, both numbers pale in comparison to the 260% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the region.
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The DMV defines the Roanoke region as the cities of Covington, Danville, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Radford, Roanoke and Salem and the counties of Alleghany, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Botetourt, Campbell, Craig, Franklin, Henry, Montgomery, Pittsylvania and Roanoke.
“In total there have been 115 traffic-related deaths so far this year, an increase of 1% compared to last year,” said the DMV. More than 900 people have died nationwide.
Linda Ford, acting DMV commissioner and the governor’s road safety representative, said the state agency released the data on fatalities to encourage drivers “to make a change” and “put an end to the behavior that we know about.” that it contributes to these devastating accidents”.
“Each of these numbers represents a real person, and many are people in your community,” said Ford. “We all have the power to make a difference by being alert to pedestrians, using seat belts, slowing down and never driving while distracted or impaired. “
As of 2020, the city of Roanoke has launched annual pedestrian safety campaigns to encourage motorists to keep their eyes peeled for crosswalks and slow down.
The 2022 campaign, titled No Need to Speed - Keep Students Safe, aimed to reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety near school zones.
The campaign ran from April to May. This year the theme was the construction of a “traffic garden” on an existing asphalt pavement at Westside Elementary School. The space allows school children, according to the campaign, to “practice the rules of the road in a playground context”.
Lamont Baker’s sister-in-law, Valerie Baker, said that both young and old people need to learn and know the rules of the road.
“There are so many programs out there that educate youth about pedestrian safety awareness,” she wrote in an email Thursday. “However, you also need to train some of these older drivers who can also benefit from tips.”
The memorial to Lamont Baker stands in a pedestrian-hazardous location in the middle of the 5000-block Salem Turnpike Northwest, between Electric Road (Virginia 419) and Peters Creek Road (Virginia 117). One of the Roanoke Valley’s oldest back roads, the Arterial Turnpike has no sidewalks or bike lanes, few streetlights, and narrow shoulders bordering steep embankments.
Not many homes line this portion of the Salem Turnpike, but branching streets to residential neighborhoods, an apartment complex, and a trailer park connect to the street. It doesn’t carry nearly as much traffic as the two four-lane roads that bypass the turnpike. But Salem Turnpike doesn’t have to be busy to be pedestrian-unfriendly.
The Roanoke Police Department reported Baker’s death as a hit-and-run fatal accident. Caitlyn Cline, the department’s public relations officer, said Thursday that no one had been arrested.
“It’s still an active investigation,” Cline said. “Death investigators are hard at work on this case.
Tracie Cooper of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Western District office in Virginia confirmed that Baker died from “blunt injuries to the head and torso.” She said the manner of his death was classified as an accident.
Valerie Baker said her brother-in-law borrowed an SUV from a friend on November 24. He ran out of gas while using the vehicle. He was walking toward his friend’s Salem home when he was struck by another vehicle “just yards away” from the SUV.
Baker said the city needed improvements that would “slow pedestrian deaths,” such as: B. “Provide adequate lighting on man-accessible roads to improve visibility at night”.
The city plans to renovate its Williamson Road corridor, where 12 pedestrians were involved in traffic accidents from 2017 to 2021. Five of those 12 people died.
The plan, approved by the Roanoke City Council in August, would establish crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes, and create safe zones for pedestrians. But Baker said every driver is responsible for protecting pedestrians.
“Most of the time, drivers are on the lookout for other vehicles and don’t notice foot traffic,” she said, adding that hit-and-run drivers “must be accountable for their actions.”
“Had the driver stopped, Lamont could have been alive today,” Baker said. She described her brother-in-law as “a prankster with a good heart.”
“Lamont was so full of life. He had a passion for music and rap. He was loved by many and he loved his family. He was a good friend who loved to put a smile on your face and make you laugh,” she wrote. “We mourn his passing with the memories he left, the good deeds he did, his wisdom and his amazing sense of humor. He will live on in us forever.”