Readers don’t have to go too far back in the Bangor Daily News archives to find stories and editorials about pedestrians being killed by drivers. Repeatedly. It’s certainly not something we’d like to keep writing about. But it keeps happening.
In the latest tragic case, 28-year-old Renata Schalk was walking in Sabattus and was hit and killed Sunday by a pickup truck, which then fled the scene of the accident according to police. The vehicle was later located in Lewiston on Monday and the suspect was taken into custody, police said.
Lisa Reynolds, 47, was hit and killed Friday on Route 302 in Windham. She was reportedly struck by a pickup after getting out of a vehicle to retrieve money that had blown out of the window. Police do not expect charges in that case.
In August, 75-year-old Philip Stevens was hit and killed by a car in a Hannaford parking lot in Falmouth. Police called it a “tragic accident” and again didn’t expect charges.
According to numbers from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, there have now been 14 pedestrian deaths in the state in 2021. That is more than the entirety of 2020, when 10 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed. In 2019, there were 17 pedestrians who were struck and killed by vehicles.
“We are urging drivers to drive with caution and be on the lookout for pedestrians and cyclists sharing Maine’s roads, especially as the days are getting shorter,” BCM Executive Director Jean Sideris said in a statement after Reynolds was killed in Windham.
There are steps that can be taken, like clearer crosswalks; more sidewalks and better sidewalk maintenance; and increasing the separation between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. But in a mostly rural state like Maine, there are many stretches of road that won’t be seeing sidewalks or bike lanes any time soon. That makes education and awareness for both drivers and pedestrians a key part of preventing future crashes.
We’re reminded of a popular, profanity-including bumper sticker that translates to “stuff happens.” And that’s true, stuff does happen. But a lot of this stuff doesn’t have to happen.
No amount of pedestrian deaths should become normalized or accepted, even as these tragic incidents continue with troubling regularity. The same is true for traffic deaths generally. It might be easy for some to become desensitized to these events given their frequency, or to think about the victims in terms of statistics. But these are people. These are our neighbors. Their deaths aren’t forgone conclusions of modern transportation. This doesn’t have to keep happening.
Each situation is different, but it seems that many could be avoided if drivers (and in some cases, pedestrians) pay better attention and make safer decisions on and around Maine roadways. We wish we didn’t have to keep writing this, but apparently it bears repeating: Be safe out there, for your own sake and for the sake of others.