By Amber Small
Over the past year, Western New Yorkers have become all too familiar with the perils of pedestrian safety and related traffic accidents. All too often these tragedies have included serious injuries or death. We’ve all read many news and opinion pieces on traffic safety, highway downgrades and local accidents across local, state and federal roadways in Western New York.
These opinions have been numerous – both for and against measures like the speed limit reduction on the Scajaquada Expressway and traffic calming measures on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg. It is not difficult to find an example in every community – just pick up the paper.
After the news stories and opinion pieces, however, there are still families whose entire lives have been torn apart, and there are still victims who may, in some cases, never recover from the actions of a thoughtless, intoxicated or distracted driver. There are, and will always be, victims.
I count my family among those victims of negligent driving. When my mother was a teenager she was struck by a car while riding her bicycle. She was left for dead on the side of the road. The accident ultimately left her with severe injuries and scarring on her brain causing epileptic seizures for the rest of her life. Although she survived, nearly every aspect of her life from that day forward was changed.
She could not hold down a job, she could not drive a car, she could not even leave the house without someone to help her; and all because of the thoughtless actions of one person. After years of doctor’s appointments and hospital visits, my mother eventually succumbed to the injuries she suffered that day and passed away from a grand mal seizure in the spring of 2002. Every single day of her life until she died was ruled by one moment in time, one car and one driver.
These aren’t the things most people consider when they comment on traffic policy, accidents, roadway reconfigurations or DUI arrests. But these are the things that matter, and they last far longer than our average news cycle. These are the things that should shape our policy discussions.
There is no doubt that cars are convenient – I drive one nearly every day. And while I understand that adding a couple of minutes to a commute may be frustrating for some drivers, the value of life is far more precious. The impact dangerous driving has on victims and their families should be our top priority.
As Western New York continues its resurgence, as a region we should all be mindful of the responsibilities we take as drivers, and not grow numb behind the wheel. As a community we should all be advocating for improving quality of life through pedestrian safety.
Amber Small is executive director of the Parkside Community Association and advocacy chairwoman of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition.