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Road design questioned after pedestrian accidents

Driver negligence is not the sole cause of pedestrian accidents. Poorly designed or defective infrastructure may also constitute a factor in these accidents.

Pedestrian accidents along a 5.5 mile stretch of Route 7 in New Milford, including a fatality in early August, have raised questions about the widening of this route in 2008. The Connecticut Department of Transportation, following a legislative request, completed a study earlier this summer and concluded that the route does not comply with federal criteria for street light installation. Local officials and residents have also called attention to the lack of sidewalks and crosswalks.

While the road's widening to four lanes was being designed in the 1990s, planners and residents tried to limit the taking of private property through eminent domain. Accordingly, the work did not include sidewalks, crosswalks or streetlights. Installing sidewalks as part of new construction was not part of DOT policy until 2011 when it required designating 10 percent of new construction funding for pedestrian and cyclist use.

State Senator Clark Chapin has claimed that walking along Route 7 is dangerous for pedestrians even though many people walk along that route. Local residents complained about the dangers involved with crossing the road.

There have been five accidents involving pedestrians since 2009, one year after the road was expanded between Veterans Bridge and the Brookfield line. Most of these occurred at dusk or after dark.

These included a pedestrian who was killed while crossing the road near a condominium and another pedestrian who was seriously injured when he was struck after he got off a bus and went across the road. Two women were also injured while crossing the road to catch a bus. The latest accident this month resulted in the death of a 24-year-old.

DOT has held pedestrians at fault for most of the accidents. However, a spokesperson also admitted that it has the responsibility to provide a safe infrastructure. Local officials have nonetheless asked the DOT to install sidewalks and lighting and local lawmakers requested that the Department reexamine safety issues because of the ongoing accidents.

Victims of a pedestrian accident should seek legal assistance to help determine liability for serious injuries and other losses. Legal representation may also help plaintiffs protect their rights in a lawsuit and respond to defenses raised by defendants.

Source: Danbury News Times, "Route 7 safety questions follow pedestrian death," By Susan Truz, Aug. 22, 2015

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