mesa

In 2020, 15 pedestrians were hit by vehicles and killed in Mesa — with pedestrian deaths per capita here projected to be far higher than the national average. Intoxicated pedestrians jaywalking often was a fatal combination.

Police reports tell the chilling story, in bland language:

“Unit two was northbound on South Dobson Road just south of Southern Avenue in lane number two. Unit one, a pedestrian, was crossing in the crosswalk against the light from west to east. 

“This crosswalk has a traffic light but the signal was green for northbound traffic. The pedestrian crossed the street in the darkness of night and was struck by unit two going northbound. 

“The pedestrian was taken to Banner Desert Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.”

The average road vehicle weighs about 4,000 pounds with top speeds of around 120 mph.

The average weight of a pedestrian is around 181 pounds with top walking speeds of around 4 mph.

When the two meet, the result is lopsided and horrible.

Vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions are, said Mesa Police Department Sgt. Greg Loewenhagen, “very brutal, very gory.

“When vehicles weighing between 3,000 to 8,000 pounds hit a human being, it does massive damage.”

The good news in Mesa: As of Thursday, no pedestrian deaths were reported in the city in 2021.

The bad news: In 2020, 15 pedestrians died after being struck by vehicles in Mesa – far higher than the national average.

In March, the Governors Highway Safety Association published an early version of its 2020 pedestrian fatalities report.

The GHSA measures fatalities per capita, with a national average of 0.9 per 100,000 projected in 2020.

New Mexico had the highest pedestrian death rate with 2.12 fatalities per 100,000. Arizona was the fourth most-dangerous state for pedestrians, with 1.43 fatalities per 100,000.

With 15 fatalities and a population of around 500,000, Mesa had about 3 fatalities per 100,000 in 2020 – more than double the state rate.

In Mesa last year, there were a few chilling outliers where the driver was at fault. 

A semi-truck driver’s wheel jumped a curb and crushed a 6-year-old near North Power and East Jensen roads in February. Ten months later, a retired man out for a morning walk was instantly killed when a hit-and-run driver swerved off Alma School Road and onto a sidewalk.

With the other 13 pedestrian deaths in 2020, drivers were not at fault.

Pedestrians crossed against lights, darted into the street mid-block at night and sometimes seemed to want to be killed.

As a passenger who witnessed one instance told police, “The victim was staggering across the street and seemed to be impaired ... the driver of his car swerved to miss the victim. As they passed the victim he looked back and saw the car behind them hit the victim.”

Jaywalking and intoxication proved a fatal mix.

“Predominantly last year, (pedestrian deaths) were jaywalking involving impairment, with the average age 50 years old,” Loewenhagen said. “These aren’t kids, they were old enough to know better.”

“We tell kids look both ways before crossing, but try to get that message to people who are impaired, it’s difficult.”

 

No time to stop

In Mesa, the first of 15 vehicle vs. pedestrian deaths in 2020 took place at 6:34 p.m. Jan. 10 near McKellips and Lindsay roads when a 65-year-old was hit by a Mitsubishi driven by a 28-year-old woman.

A witness told police the man stepped into the street and approached his car. He swerved to miss the man, then watched in horror as the car behind him drove into the pedestrian.

According to a report, the driver of the Mitsubishi told police the man she hit “was facing her vehicle and holding his hand up, like a police officer would when stopping traffic. (The driver) applied her brakes but was unable to avoid striking (the victim). 

“She stated she heard (the victim) fly over the top of her vehicle as she was coming to a stop.”

Responders arrived within three minutes and the man was taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn, where he died.

 

Just discharged

At 1:18 a.m. on May 11, a man who 13 minutes before was discharged from Banner Desert Hospital was hit by a car as he crossed South Dobson Road in front of the hospital.

A police officer, who identified the man by a hospital bracelet on his wrist, found the man “was twitching and had labored breathing.”

Despite life-saving efforts of Mesa Fire and Medical Department responders, the pedestrian died.

The driver, who had just exited Route 60 and was six blocks from his Dobson Road home, told police he swerved to try not to hit the man he saw at the last moment, but the front passenger side of his car hit him.

“As I was preparing to leave, I observed that the street light on the southwest corner of the intersection was burned out, causing the intersection to be darker than normal,” an officer reported.

Video footage confirmed reports of the driver and a passenger in his car: Using a walker, the pedestrian was in a crosswalk but going against the light.

 

Driver and victim intoxicated

Less than a month later, another man using a walker and crossing against a light was hit and killed in a crosswalk.

Around 9:30 p.m. June 9, 2020, a man was crossing Main Street near 58th Street when he was struck by a westbound car.

A friend said he and the man had just got off a bus and crossed the street, heading to the Windemere Hotel.

According to the witness, he crossed against the light and was far ahead of the victim, who walks slowly due to his use of a walker. The witness said he turned and saw a car driving at a fast rate and yelled to his friend to hurry up just before the vehicle hit his friend.

The man died a week later.

An officer noted in his report the driver “was showing signs and symptoms of impairment,” with slurred speech and a lack of balance, and had an open bottle of whiskey in the vehicle. 

He told police he was on his way home from the What the Hell bar, where he had one drink. An impairment check resulted in his arrest for driving under the influence.

His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .14 percent, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 percent.

In this case, both the driver and victim were ruled intoxicated.

According to the police report, “the victim had a blood alcohol content of .035 percent, with amphetamine, methamphetamine and cannabis detected in his blood.

A police report noted the man would have had a hard time safely crossing the six-lane street even if he had a green light:

“The distance to cross Main Street at 58th Street is approximately 105 feet … To cross the distance of 105 feet, it would take 35 to 37 seconds. The crosswalk light only provides 25 seconds of green. So, even if the crosswalk button had been pushed and illuminated green, (the victim) would most likely have not had enough time to cross the entire length of the roadway.”

 

‘Ran into the road’

On the night of June 13, witnesses watched a 63-year-old drunk man dash into Stapley Drive near Southern Avenue.

He was almost across the road when he stumbled backward, into traffic, where he was hit by a car and killed. A bottle of whiskey was found in the dead man’s pocket.

According to a toxicology report, the victim had a blood alcohol content of .249 percent. 

At 10:30 p.m. July 25, a woman driving a pickup truck on Alma School Road just past Ray Road saw a man, 59,  pushing a shopping cart across the road; she slammed on the brakes but hit and killed him.

Another driver said he swerved and narrowly missed the man, who was crossing the darkened road less than a quarter-mile from a lighted crosswalk.

A witness said the pedestrian pushing the cart “seemed in a daze as he did not react to the vehicles coming at him.”

Similarly, on the night of Aug. 29, a 74-year-old woman was killed while attempting to cross six lanes of East Southern Avenue near 70th Street, just east of Power Road.

A witness told police the woman was “nonchalantly walking across Southern Avenue from south to north. The pedestrian paid no attention to oncoming traffic and made her way into westbound traffic.”

One vehicle swerved to miss the woman, but a Chevy Tahoe struck her.

The witness said he “did not believe the SUV was speeding and was not sure why the pedestrian would try to cross the road where she did.”

 

No way to miss him

Around 9 p.m. Nov. 2, a food delivery driver glanced at his phone as he drove near West Juanita Avenue and South Country Club Drive just south of Highway 60.

Just as he looked up, the driver hit a 36-year-old man, who died.

Another driver said she saw the pedestrian dart into the street wearing dark clothes and “there was no way the driver could have seen him.”

The police report suggests the victim may have been impaired, saying his blood “was found to contain amphetamine, methamphetamine, cannabis, and fentanyl.”

Less than a week later, a woman driving on Dobson Road near Broadway “saw something white fly across her windshield.”

She had just hit a 63-year-old woman.

According to police, “Based on the witness accounts, evidence collected and the surveillance footage, the contributing factor to the collision was (the victim) crossing Dobson Road against the no cross sign.”

Two weeks later, police received

multiple calls about an incident near North Greenfield Road and East University Drive.

Callers said a man “was walking in the northbound lanes of Greenfield. There were multiple witnesses that observed (the victim) in the roadway and they stated it appeared that he was trying to get hit by a vehicle.”

As one witness later said, in a written statement, “He started walking in my lane so I swerved to miss him. He was wearing black pants and a black sweatshirt with his hood on.”

Cars honked at the man in the street, but the 43-year-old did not respond and continued walking in traffic.

A man driving a truck looked over his shoulder to change lanes, then heard a “boom.”

When he pulled over to see what had happened, he told police, “people came up to him saying ‘that wasn’t your fault. He jumped out in front of you. He’s been doing that all night.’”

 

Deaths on Main Street

On the night of Dec. 3, two people ran across Main Street near Recker Road against a light.

One did not make it to the other side. He was hit by a Nissan Versa and killed.

The driver “was pretty shaken up and began to cry because he stated he just could not stop in time.”

An officer reviewed surveillance footage from a nearby store.

“As the vehicle travels it strikes one of the two pedestrians. … The pedestrian appears to have observed the vehicle coming as he appears to plant his foot to change directions just before being struck.”

A few blocks away, ambulances returned to Main Street less than a week later.

Early in the evening of Dec. 7, a 26-year-old man was crossing Main Street outside of a crosswalk near 56th Street. A man driving a Toyota Yaris eastbound on Main Street hit and killed him.

A witness driving behind the Yaris said the pedestrian was jaywalking near the Travel Inn. 

“The car in front of us didn’t see or have time to stop,” the witness said.

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