Monday, January 7, 2008

2007 inthe Rear View Mirror

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an interesting article on the front of the Arkansas page of yesterday’s paper (http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/213020/ ) comparing the number of pedestrian deaths in the state between 2007 and 2006. According to the paper, and accident statistics kept by the Arkansas State Police, pedestrian traffic deaths are up this year – a total of 46, as opposed to 32 who were run over and killed on the streets and highways of the Natural State in 2006. And for those who keep track, motorist deaths were down a little less than 5% -- 630 people died in vehicle crashes in 2007, as opposed to 666 in 2006.

The article noted that at least two bicyclists – who are sometimes counted as pedestrians, sometimes not – were killed in traffic accidents, citing the cases of Celeste Bates, a young girl from Wynne who was killed by a pickup truck when she ran a stop sign in July, and Jason Elslager, a young boy from Jacksonville who was struck from behind and killed by an SUV while riding at night near Lonoke in early October. They missed the deaths most discussed on local cycling forums – those of Ronnie Clark of Springdale, who was right-hooked and killed by a tractor-trailer truck turning right-on-red in Fayetteville, also in July, and the bizarre case of Aaron Simpson, who was killed in December when he failed to obey a railroad crossing signal, ran into the side of, and was run over by a passing freight train in southwest Little Rock. That makes 4 Arkansas deaths in 2007, as opposed to the average of 3 in previous years.

Additionally, Phillip McDougal of Texarkana wasn’t counted, as he was killed just a few miles over the state line in Texas. Like Elslager, McDougal was struck down from behind by an inattentive driver, though in broad daylight.

Since we started the local tradition of the “Ride of Silence” three years ago when Jason Pratt was killed on West Markham by a drunk driver, I’ve paid a lot more attention to bike accidents and crashes. This was reinforced this past summer and fall when I started studying to attain my LCI certification. And as terrible as each individual death is, Arkansas is still one of the safer states as far as the bike accident statistics go, especially when you compare it to the carnage wreaked upon pedestrians (46 dead), motorcyclists, and motorists (630 dead).

The casualty count for 2008 has already started in other places. BikeJournal.com has an excellent thread to help keep track of these tragedies, and to learn from mistakes so as to try to avoid additional tragedy. The current thread is at http://www.bikejournal.com/thread.asp?ThreadID={BBDBD8E4-2BF4-447A-9464-D313976F7A7B}&numPost=all .

One of the things we’ve added to the monthly BACA meetings for this year will be a short 10-minute pitch on bike safety, and ways to be a better (and safer) rider. I’ll try to incorporate these lessons into those programs; hopefully we can make 2008 a year where there are no cyclist casualties in Arkansas…

Ya’ll be careful out there now.. ya hear?

1 comment:

pmac1996 said...

Thanks for mentioning Phillip McDougal. He followed the rules and just enjoyed riding but was hit and left on the side of the road for a passing motorest to find. They caught the driver that hit him but he now has renewed his drivers licence and is driving until charges are filed pending paper work. I will follow your club news. Thanks, His Mom