After more than six years of stressing the need for safer pedestrian crosswalks, officials at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville say enough is enough.
The hospital’s campus sits between Third and Fourth streets in the middle of constant traffic, including both vehicles and pedestrians. Third Street is part of Ky. 33, and Fourth Street is part of U.S. 127.
In the past two years, at least three pedestrians have been struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross the busy streets, the most recent of which is still being treated at University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center in Lexington.
Everette Stephens, 67, was walking in the intersection of South Third and West Walnut streets last week when he was hit by a 2008 Dodge truck.
McDowell CEO Vicki Darnell said the crash could have been avoided, as the pedestrian had the right of way.
“We’ve got a lot of pedestrian-safety issues being landlocked like we are,” Bridges said. “And one of the historic issues that we have is car-pedestrian conflict.”
The hospital’s Danville campus employs about 500 people. In addition, it has a high volume of patients and visitors who bring its average daily population to about 1,200 people, all of which have to cross traffic to enter the facility.
“As you can imagine, when people come here, they’re sick,” Darnell said. “They are not as quick as perhaps you or I might be getting across the street.”
Bridges and Darnell said the hospital has been trying to work with state legislators and the Transportation Cabinet to implement safer crosswalks but has seen more interest in the issue since Congressman Brett Guthrie came into office representing Boyle County.
In a letter to Guthrie, Darnell said “traditional traffic control and safety measures are not working.”
Darnell said action needs to take place now and has put together a list of solutions, both simple and complex, that would help improve safety.
Some inexpensive things that could be improved immediately are to sequence the pedestrian signals to coincide with traffic signals, hang signage that states pedestrians have the right of way and to not turn right on red, and repaint crosswalk indicators.
Other suggestions Darnell has are to build out crosswalk pavement, which would allow the pedestrian to be more visible to traffic. She also suggests doing away with Third Street parking between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Walnut Street as another way to increase visibility.
Darnell said Danville city officials have been supportive in resolving the issue.
“We are concerned about traffic safety in downtown Danville,” said City Manager Ron Scott, adding the city is aware of the high number of accidents around the hospital.
Scott said he has talked to Danville police, and officers have increased traffic monitoring of the area to bring about a short-term solution.
“I think we have a lot of accidents for our size community,” said Police Chief Tony Gray.
Gray said at the hospital’s request, his department is looking at local statistics and is finding some commonalities in accidents around the hospital.
Hospital officials will meet with transportation officials on Thursday to discuss the issue. In the meantime, Darnell and Bridges encourage the community to be aware of the issue.