Spike In Pedestrian Accidents Prompts Warning From Authorities

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DELAWARE - "Pedestrian fatalities state-wide are on the increase," Geoff Sundstrom, director of Public Relations for DelDot.

As of July 2013, 13 pedestrians died in crashes with motor vehicles.  That's up from 10 at the same time last year.

The most recent, just Thursday night, when 37 year-old Deepak P. Chatani was reportedly walking his bike in a turning lane down Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach, when he was killed after a DART bus reportedly hit him from behind.

"Everyone talks about Route 1 being a dangerous road.  If you defy the law, it's going to be even more dangerous," says George Panarello.

He owns a bike shop right off the busy highway and says he sees it happen all the time.  "For every accident that I know about on route one, I've witnessed, myself, 20-30 close calls."

Police in Rehoboth beach even fine cyclists for not having lights on their bikes.

"A lot of times if somebody brings in a receipt showing they bought a light of a helmet, the charges are dropped," says Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks, "we're out there really trying to educate the public and people riding bicycles."

But bicycle and pedestrian crashes aren't just about user error.   

"The state had recognized for some time that here are improvements that need to take place," admits Sundstrom

In fact, DelDot has a $10.3 million dollar pedestrian improvement plan in the works, building continuous sidewalks along Route 1 from the Lewes area to Rehoboth Beach, as well as installing 12 crosswalks throughout the state.

That plan is expected to start next spring and likely wont be completed until 2015.

This year, Delaware lawmakers also passed a resolution, creating a task force to study pedestrian safety on Route 1 from the Nassau Bridge in Lewes, down to Dewey Beach.


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