Family wants change at deadly intersection - WSMV Channel 4

Family wants change at deadly intersection after man in wheelchair hit and killed

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MADISON, TN (WSMV) -

Marilyn Connor says about six months ago her brother Robert Connor was featured in a newspaper expressing concerns about the number of people in wheelchairs who had been hit while trying to cross the street. Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, his deep fears became his tragic reality.

"He was crossing from the CVS at an intersection, a crosswalk, and at that time it didn't get him enough time," his sister said. "That's what his concerns were about."

Robert Connor was crossing Gallatin Pike at Berkley Drive in his wheelchair when he was struck and killed by an oncoming van, police say. He was in the crosswalk.

"Right as he got at the sidewalk it appeared to be somebody hit him and dragged him several feet," Marilyn Connor said.

The driver of the van, 71-year-old Arthur Williams, told police he had the green light. Still, Robert Connor's family feels he didn't have enough time at the crossing.

"He was totally at the edge, almost at the edge at the sidewalk," Marilyn Connor said. "If you would have gave him two more seconds, he would have been there."

"I stood there and timed it and from the time that it said walk until the light turned green for traffic to go," said Marty George. "You have 45 seconds, so if you have any sort of hesitation there, you don't have a lot of window for mistakes," he added.

In September, another pedestrian was hit and killed at the same intersection while trying to cross in a wheelchair.

Neighbors say Robert Connor lived in Chippington Towers, a facility that houses numerous wheelchair-bound seniors. There are often sightings of wheelchair-bound pedestrians trying to cross that street before the traffic signal changes.

"Maybe the bigger question is, how safe are our Nashville streets for everyone?" asked Anne Eubank, executive director of The Center for Independent Living of Middle Tennessee.

She believes streets should have safety features that are inclusive for cars and all kinds of pedestrians.

"When they look for user friendliness, that's everyone: people who use strollers, people who use wheelchairs, people who use walkers and bicyclists," Eubank said. "Just like a walking person, he has the same rights as we do."

Visibility is also a concern at the Gallatin Pike and Berkley Drive intersection. Eubank said while equipping wheelchairs with lights will help, most insurance companies will not pay for it because it is not considered a medical necessity.

Robert Connor's family says he would want others to know they need to be aware.
 
"We have these crosswalks for a reason. Just be aware because it hurts a lot of people," said Marilyn Connor.

Metro police say there was no indication of alcohol or drug involvement. In a press release, they wrote the preliminary factor appears to be "Connor's failure to obey a traffic control device."

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