Route 1 seen as state’s deadliest road

Motorists travel eastbound on Route 1 in Greenwich. At left, a motorist is stopped at the intersection with Byram Road. Residents say traffic is an issue in the area where a pedestrian was killed two weeks ago.

More pedestrians were killed on Route 1 in the 70-mile stretch between Byram and Groton than on any other state road, according to a transportation advocacy group that is calling for improved policies to make Connecticut streets more pedestrian and bike friendly.

The Tri-Station Transportation Campaign, a Manhattan non-profit group that lobbies for decreased automobile use, found in a report that of 100 automobile fatalities in Connecticut between 2009 and 2011, six of them occurred in that stretch of Route 1.

The group based its findings on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration accident and fatality statistics.

Two roads were tied as Connecticut’s second-most dangerous roads — Route 66 and Route 44, with three fatalities each.

Steve Higashide, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s senior planner, said the numbers reflect the need for state highway engineers to put more emphasis on bike lanes, crosswalks, and sidewalks to make busier roads safer.

The three most dangerous roadways are arterial roads, with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction, Higashide said, often with too few crosswalks and other safety enhancements to aid pedestrians or bicylists.

“I think what the report does is emphasize the need for better roadway engineering,” he said. “More than 50 percent of the fatalities occurred on arterial roads with very fast traffic and destinations people want to walk to.”

On all roads in the local area during the three years, Bridgeport had the most pedestrian fatalities with five, followed by Darien with three, and Danbury and Norwalk with two each.

Between Devon and Byram there were four fatalities on U.S. Route 1 during the period.

In Byram on Sept. 3, 2010, a 56-year-old woman was killed by a truck near the New York state line while crossing Route 1 in early morning rush hour.

On Dec. 3, 2010, in downtown Westport, 93-year-old Ira Leonard Eisner, of Stamford, was struck and killed by a car on Route 1 while crossing the street outside the crosswalk.

On Dec. 21, 2010, 65-year-old Sharon Broecking suffered fatal injuries when she was struck by a car as she crossed the Post Road East near Westfair Drive in Westport.

The Tri-Station Transportation Campaign also recommends the state adopt a tougher “vulnerable users” law, with stiffer penalties for drivers found at fault in accidents in which pedestrians, bicyclists, or other users of the road are hurt or killed, Higashide said.

In recent years, state transportation engineers have focused more attention on expanding pedestrian amenities in road paving and repair projects where feasible, state Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said.

During repaving projects, engineers often restripe the existing road surface to provide a wider shoulder for bicyclists, or include new sidewalk segments and crosswalks, he said.

“For our part, I think the Tri-State Transportation Campaign makes some good points about having infrastructure that is more accessible to pedestrian and that is something we have focused on in the past couple of years in particular,” Nursick said. “When it comes to roadway design we make sure we’re providing the best amenities we can for bicyclists and pedestrians and it’s something we’ve made great strides on.”

However, he said the factor of human responsibility is of equal importance.

From 2009 thru 2011, there were 244 incidents involving pedestrians on the 117-mile section of route 1 from Greenwich to the Rhode Island border, Nursick said. In more than half the accidents, pedestrians were found to be at fault, including four of the six pedestrians killed on Route 1, he said.

Nursick said those numbers underscore a disregard on the part of both motorists and pedestrians about operating safely in the roadway, which can’t be solved by infrastructure changes.

“It shows that people are not using the infrastructure the way it is intended to be used,” he said. “Granted that infrastructure improvements need to be capitalized and improved on, but a lot of that is low profile behind the scenes changes like making shoulders wider that files under the radar.”


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