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Intersection in Little Rock listed as one of the deadliest for pedestrians

According to LRPD records, 2020 was the deadliest year with 33 pedestrian crashes and 2022 is looking to be just as deadly.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Deadly pedestrian crashes in Little Rock are having one of the worst years on record, right behind 2020.

It's something we've told you about before, but people in the community are pleading for them to stop as they cope with losing loved ones.

Bobby Wesley lost his son in a hit-and-run back in August.

"You got to be careful out there. You know, people just you know, taking people's lives for nothing," Bobby Wesley said.

For Bobby Wesley, pedestrian crashes is a subject that's personal. 

Wesley said his son, Jamaal Lewis, died after a car hit Lewis while walking on South University Avenue back in August. The driver fled the scene and police never found them.

Months later, Wesley is still searching for answers. 

"I just wish somebody would just come forward. And just tell me something. You know, I know somebody knows something," Wesley said.

Wesley's story is one shared by other families across Little Rock, who have also lost loved ones to similar crashes.

In September, Little Rock police reported more than half of the city's pedestrian crashes happened in the southwest part of town and several of them were on University Avenue.

Most of them have happened at night. 

Police point to several key factors: the lack of crosswalks and sidewalks, the speed south of Asher and how dark it becomes when the sun goes down. 

But why doesn't University have sidewalks along the entire roadway?

Michael Hood with the Little Rock Public Works Department said that's because it used to be a highway. 

"University Avenue until just the last year or so has been under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Department of Transportation," Michael Hood said.

Now the city owns it and Hood said they know it's one of the areas that needs the most attention and increased safety. 

"It's actually University, Geyer Springs, Colonel Glenn Road, downtown in the Broadway Street area, all those busy pedestrian corridors have, unfortunately, a history of pedestrian injury and fatality," Hood said.

According to the most recent study from Metroplan, between 2009 and 2018, the intersection of University and Colonel Glenn had one of the highest rates of pedestrian crashes in Central Arkansas.

Tab Townsell with Metroplan said part of the problem is streets are designed more for drivers than pedestrians.

"People are not as easy to see as cars are and you have when you go wider with wider streets and wider lanes and wider ClearView zones and bigger intersections, You have a tendency for people to drive faster," Tab Townsell said.

Street design isn't the only thing Townsell said is behind the rise in pedestrian crashes. 

"It's probably more behavioral changes, like speeding. And also just the fact that we have a lot of distracted driving. Phones make too much of a impact on our lives now and it's only increasing," Townsell said.

"In so many cases, it's motorists not always being as careful as they should be. And pedestrians not being as careful as they can be," Hood said.

So what's being done to solve this and increase safety? 

Hood said its all in the city's long-term plan, which includes building sidewalks on University in the near future.

"We'd like to see that the intersections all have crosswalks and that they're upgraded appropriately with the pedestrian buttons and signalization to help that," Hood said.

Hood and Townsell said building more sidewalks and crosswalks is an improvement, but they don't fix the entire problem. A recent study from Metroplan shows 70% of pedestrian crashes happened with sidewalks present. 

"It's not going to be a fix all for everything, but at least get some of the fixes started," Townsell said.

Townsell said Metroplan recently applied for a federal grant to allow them to study safety issues on streets, with the hope the city will make further improvements based on the results.

For Wesley, his hope is that no one else has to go through the same heartbreak as him, and whoever is responsible for his son's death will eventually come forward.

"That's all I want. I just want some answers," he said.

"And I miss my son. I really do. I miss him," he said.

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