Pedestrian fatalities on Niagara Falls Boulevard show the need to study possible safety improvements - The Buffalo News

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Pedestrian fatalities on Niagara Falls Boulevard show the need to study possible safety improvements

Two similar accidents at the same intersection, each resulting in the death of a pedestrian, should do more than raise eyebrows. They should prompt an urgent review that leads to changes, possibly in traffic control at that intersection, certainly in decision-making by drivers and pedestrians.

The most recent victim was Lisa Monaco. She was killed shortly after 9 a.m. a week ago when a car struck her while she stood in the curb lane waiting to cross Niagara Falls Boulevard at the intersection of Willow Ridge Drive. She was heading for the bus stop across the road. Only two months earlier, Jeraldine Tater was struck and killed in the predawn darkness at the same intersection. Like Monaco, she was attempting to cross Niagara Falls Boulevard after using the telephone at the convenience store on the east side of the road. Both women were wearing dark clothing.

Town of Tonawanda Police Lt. Nicholas A. Bado said his department has asked for a meeting with the state Department of Transportation to discuss whether safety improvements need to be made at the intersection. He also observed that actions by the pedestrians played a primary role in both fatalities.

The driver of the Ford Taurus that struck Monaco told police he did not see her. Police Lt. Paul Yacano of the department’s accident investigation unit said the investigation is continuing, but that he does not expect charges to be filed.

But there are problems at the intersection. Bado cited better lighting as one possible improvement. Residents in the area also say the traffic light at the intersection changes too quickly for pedestrians to safely cross the road’s six lanes. In addition, motorists often race to beat the light or avoid it altogether by cutting through the parking area in front of the store. All of those conditions create unnecessary hazards.

Police and the DOT should consider all of them. Improved lighting could be a start, but they should also consider lengthening pedestrians’ crossing time and discouraging drivers from speeding through the light or cutting through the parking lot.

But there is also a balance to achieve. Niagara Falls Boulevard along the Amherst-Tonawanda line can already be a stop-and-go nightmare of traffic lights for drivers. So while planners need to look into whatever problems exist at this intersection, they also need to keep in mind the mistakes that the victims of these accidents made. Make the intersection safe and usable for all.

Indeed, one of the best things pedestrians can do is to understand that the rules of the road apply to them, as well. That means crossing at intersections and with the light, especially on a road as wide and busy as Niagara Falls Boulevard. Jaywalking only increases the chances of precipitating an accident, and it doesn’t save enough time to justify the risk.

So, town leaders and the DOT should look at this intersection to see what can reasonably be done to make it safer for motorists and pedestrians. In the meantime, though, pedestrians should be sure they are making smart decisions when they want to cross the road.

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