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Lack of Streetlights Likely Contributes to Senior Citizen Pedestrian Deaths

Steve Wagner

Last week, we wrote about 89-year-old Horace Rounds, who lay in a ditch for a couple of hours after being hit by a car in the still-dark early morning hours. He was crossing the street from Wal-Mart to his home at the Bishop T. Garrott Benjamin Senior Living Center. Unfortunately, Lester is not the only resident of the low-income apartments who has died crossing Michigan Road. Three senior citizen pedestrian deaths have occurred in the same poorly-lit roadway, and some say they never really had a chance.

Despite being a major and very busy thoroughfare through Indianapolis, this and other areas of our city’s low-income neighborhoods remain in the dark due to a 35-year policy banning new city streetlights. As reported by IndyStar, this policy essentially created a situation where wealthier neighborhoods and neighborhood association paid for their own streetlights while less affluent residents were left with dark, unsafe conditions. IndyStar’s analysis shows the result to be that more than two-thirds of Marion County pedestrian deaths over a fifteen year period have occurred in neighborhoods with the lowest average incomes.

Residents Fear Leaving for Errands or Exercise

Residents of the senior living complex express fear about walking out of their complex for necessary, healthy activities like running errands or to get exercise. Many of them use a wheelchair, as did 72-year-old Calvin Bowie, who was killed crossing the street in 2014. Though there is a crosswalk, it is nearly 1,000 feet away, creating difficulty for the residents who have some mobility issues. James Carpenter, another senior citizen pedestrian and resident of the center, was killed crossing the street in the same area in 2011.

Since the streetlight policy came into play, the city’s population has increased more than 25%. The thirty-year period has resulted in just 30,000 publicly-funded streetlights, with individuals, businesses, and homeowners’ associations choosing to pay privately for another 21,000. Some lower-income neighborhoods were able to win grant funding to cover the installation of streetlights, but after grant funding for the ensuing electric bills ran out, so did the light. Those streetlights now sit in the dark in many areas.

It seems impossible to believe that some of our most vulnerable citizens would be left without something as basic as streetlights. Safety itself has become a pricey option available only to some, and this is unacceptable. While the residents of the senior living center work with the city to discuss the addition of streetlights or the lowering of the speed limit in the area, more pedestrians are dying all across Indianapolis. If you or someone you know has been injured in a senior citizen pedestrian accident due to poor lighting or other factors, the pedestrian accident attorneys at Wagner Reese can help. Call us today for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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