Two pedestrians have found themselves in Yale New Haven Hospital this week after serious vehicle crashes in the Elm City.
The accidents come in the wake of four pedestrian deaths on the streets of New Haven in 2020 alone, leading to calls for increased traffic enforcement and proposed legislation for more stringent road safety practices.
Wednesday’s incident occurred at the intersection of Prospect and Trumbull streets adjacent to Benjamin Franklin College. The victim, a 21-year-old male Yale undergraduate, suffered non-life-threatening facial injuries. The driver, also a Yale undergraduate, told police that he was travelling north of Prospect Street when the pedestrian “ran suddenly into the crosswalk and across the street.”
Alexandra Gers ’23 witnessed the accident unfolding as she walked to class on Science Hill. Gers said she was across the street from Franklin when she saw a man dashing across the street and heard a car skidding to a halt. Police cars, a firetruck and an ambulance rapidly arrived on the scene.
“When he stood up, you could see a gash on his forehead, some blood on his face, and his tooth was chipped,” Gers said of the victim.
University spokesperson Karen Peart did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
The night before, on Tuesday evening, a 69-year-old New Haven resident unaffiliated with Yale was hit by a Connecticut Transit bus at the corner of Elm Street and York Street. According to eyewitnesses, the man was waiting at the bus stop when he fell to the ground near the sidewalk as the bus was pulling away. The bus drove over the pedestrian’s leg, causing him to suffer from significant crushing injuries.
The accident led to police shutting down portions of Elm Street around the L.L. Bean store on Tuesday night.
As of Wednesday morning, according to New Haven Police Department spokesman Anthony Duff, the elderly man “remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.”
“This is an issue that I’m deeply concerned about,” New Haven mayor Justin Elicker told the News in an interview. “We have made multiple changes to improve pedestrian safety this year, such as increasing traffic enforcement and motor vehicle stops.”
Elicker’s administration has implemented 1000 more traffic stops since his inauguration in January, and is planning infrastructural improvements across the city such as increased speed bumps.
The issue has long been on the radar of New Haven’s politicians and representatives. On Monday, the Connecticut Transport Committee held a public hearing where citizens and legislators advocated for passing H.B. 5324, a house bill that would work to reduce fatalities on the streets of Connecticut. Among other recommendations, the bill in question would give localities the jurisdiction to set lower speed limits on streets, increase fines for drivers operating electronic devices while driving and establish a fine for opening the door of a vehicle in a manner that impedes a pedestrian or cyclists.
“It’s honestly not safe to be on your bike or walking in the city of New Haven,” said Joshua Glaab, head coach of men’s cross country at Quinnipiac University, at Monday’s public hearing. “This bill is a move in the right direction towards stating that as a state we value everyone who is on the road, not just drivers.”
The bill would also require drivers to give the right of way to pedestrians who indicate an intention to cross the road at a crosswalk — the current law in Connecticut is that a pedestrian needs to have entered the crosswalk to obligate a car to stop. This is not the current standard in most other states.
According to Doug Hausladen, New Haven’s director of transportation, traffic and parking, New Haven has the greatest percentage of residents who walk or bike to work in New England. Hausladen said that a combination of high pedestrian traffic and busy roads contributed to the fact that New Haven saw 6,997 crashes reported in 2018.
“Tragedies involving pedestrians often occur at intersections,” Hausladen said. “These numbers underscore the need and lend to the urgency of improving the safety of our roadways.”
This year, 14 Connecticut residents have lost their lives in fatal motor vehicle crashes.
Meera Shoaib | email@example.com