Balloons with messages and flowers hang at the Enfield High School football field for Jaylene Gonzalez, a 14-year-old freshman, who died after being hit by a truck while walking on Route 140 after school. Gonzalez is one of at least 16 pedestrians killed by a vehicle on Connecticut roads as of March 14. (Yehyun Kim, CTMirror.org)
Jesse Robert Pincince “looked down for a second” to check his phone while driving along North Road in East Windsor on the afternoon of March 6 when he heard a loud “thump” against his truck, he told police.
Jaylene Gonzalez, a 14-year-old freshman at Enfield High School, had been walking with a friend along the east side of North Road or Route 140, which doesn’t have sidewalks, when “this truck” came out of nowhere and hit her, according to the East Windsor police report.
The teenage soccer player became yet another pedestrian killed by a vehicle this year, and the circumstances — a larger vehicle, potentially a distracted driver — are becoming more common, experts say.
With at least 16 pedestrian deaths on Connecticut roads as of March 14, according to the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center, 2022 could become one of the more deadly years for pedestrians in the state, continuing a troubling trend.
In the past 10 years, the number of pedestrians struck and killed by cars has more than doubled, due in part to a combination of larger and heavier cars, higher speeds and distracted drivers.
“In 2011, there were 26 pedestrians killed on our roads, and last year (2020) we had 65 deaths, and that includes a portion of the spring when hardly anybody was driving,” said state Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto.
The total number of pedestrian deaths for 2020 includes two children killed in private driveways.
The number of deaths is still climbing. This Jan. 1, just minutes into 2022, a 51-year-old Windsor man named Michael Brown was killed while walking on Albany Avenue in Hartford.
DOT officials and advocates for improving roads for biking and walking agree on the causes: People are driving larger and heavier vehicles such as SUVs, which cause more injuries; people are driving those cars faster and more recklessly because, especially during the pandemic, there has been less fear of being pulled over; and many of the state’s roads, particularly in urban areas, aren’t designed for increased pedestrian traffic.
Eucalitto said research shows that if a pedestrian gets hit by a car going 20 mph, nine out of 10 pedestrians will survive. If that car is going 40 mph, only one out of 10 pedestrians will survive.
If that car is an SUV or a truck, much more likely now than 10 years ago, the injuries are likely worse.