Loved ones died on CT roads. This is their desire now.

Loved ones died on CT roads.  This is their desire now.

Bill Devlin remembers being woken up by police at 3:30 a.m. on the day his daughter died in a hit-and-run crash last year.

He shared with dozens of people at Bushnell Park in Hartford his story of telling friends and family of Shauna’s death, then tried to piece together what happened in the months that followed.

“It felt like a thick cloud came down and it was always there,” Devlin said.

Shawna Devlin was a pedestrian when she was struck and killed. Many people in Bushnell Park on Sunday also lost loved ones in a similar way, and gathered on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

The event, which was first held in the UK in 1993, is held every year to commemorate the millions of people killed each year in car accidents.

Attendees of the Hartford event also used the day to call for changes, noting that Connecticut has seen a record number of car deaths in the past three years.

Attendees hold signs remembering loved ones lost in traffic accidents during a rally Sunday in Bushnell Park in Hartford to mark International Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
Attendees hold signs remembering loved ones lost in traffic accidents during a rally Sunday in Bushnell Park in Hartford to mark International Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

Organizers placed flags to honor 659 people killed since the beginning of 2022 in vehicle accidents, including 521 drivers and passengers and 138 pedestrians and cyclists.

In Connecticut, organizers said, that includes more than 360 people killed in crashes in 2022, at least 73 of them pedestrians and four cyclists. So far in 2023, there have been 272 traffic deaths so far, including 48 pedestrians and 4 cyclists, event organizers said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 42,795 people were killed in traffic crashes nationwide in 2022, a slight decrease from the 42,939 people killed in 2021, but still a roughly 30% increase compared to 2011.

“We can prevent these tragedies by designing streets and establishing policies that reduce speeds and create a safer space for all road users,” said Amy Watkins, program specialist with Watch for Me CT.

Many people talked about losing a loved one in an accident. In many cases, the accident involved a pedestrian or bicyclist who was struck by a vehicle.

They said they wanted to use their stories for change.

Judith Proctor also said: “I hope that my grief, my love and my anger will, in some way, lead to action to change our roads, slow down traffic and change our culture.”

Proctor’s son, Charlie, died in 2020 after he was injured while riding a bike in Arlington, Massachusetts.

The increase in road deaths is also impacting first responders and medical professionals trying to treat victims, said Dr. Alfred Croteau, an acute care surgeon at Hartford Healthcare.

“Behind the scenes, these professionals carry a heavy burden,” Croteau said. “The trauma of witnessing these devastating incidents makes them witness the pain, suffering and loss firsthand.”

Judith Proctor, of Fairfield, talks about how her son, Charlie, died after being hit by a vehicle while riding his bike.  Proctor was one of several speakers who spoke about the death of a loved one during a rally Sunday at Bushnell Park in Hartford marking World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
Judith Proctor, of Fairfield, talks about how her son, Charlie, died after being hit by a vehicle while riding his bike. Proctor was one of several speakers who spoke about the death of a loved one during a rally Sunday at Bushnell Park in Hartford marking World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

Watkins urged lawmakers and state officials to continue adopting the recommendations of the Vision Zero Council, an advisory group that includes members from the Department of Transportation, DMV, Public Health, State Police and others.

Lawmakers approved a shortened version of the council’s recommendations this year, including allowing municipalities to use red light cameras and other forms of automated traffic enforcement.

The approved bill also calls for a public awareness campaign about impaired driving and increased education for teens.

Other proposals, such as requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, were removed from the bill.

Separately, lawmakers approved a plan to expand wrong-way detection systems that aim to notify police and other drivers when a car is going the wrong way on a highway.

DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalito, chair of the Vision Zero Council, promised to continue pushing for safety improvements.

He said he began focusing on traffic safety after losing friends and family members in accidents.

“Making our streets and communities safer is what I wake up every day thinking about, as I know many of you do because of your losses,” Eucalito said.

Apart from the council, he said this includes emphasizing crosswalks, bike paths and pedestrian crossing signals with timers for each project.

State Rep. Amy Berger-Girvalo, D-Ridgefield, said lawmakers are also committed to improving safety. She said that the stories of family members are more influential than statistics, and she remembers the first time she heard someone talk about losing a loved one.

“I can say the words she used, I can describe the tone of her voice,” said Berger Gervalo, vice chairman of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

    (tags for translation) CT News 

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