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Fatal accident has police cautioning crosswalk safety


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SALT LAKE CITY — The tragic death this week of a longtime Salt Lake businessman in an auto-pedestrian accident has Salt Lake City police once again encouraging pedestrian safety, especially at crosswalks.

Richard Wirick, 82, was walking in a crosswalk near 400 South and 200 East Tuesday morning. Police say the traffic light turned green before he made it to the other side.

The first two lanes of traffic stopped and waited for the man to finish crossing, but police said "the bus was unable to stop" and hit Wirick. He later died from his injuries.

The accident has Salt Lake police once again cautioning that it is up to both pedestrians and drivers to make sure people make it safety across the street.

Take Alex Barnum, for example, who works in the downtown area and frequently walks to meetings. He admits he's had a few close calls, even in the crosswalks.

"I stand back for a second a look around and make sure the cars, if there are any, have some eye contact with me," Barnum said Friday.

Detective Josh Ashdown, with the Salt Lake City Police Department, shared some tips with KSL News that, in his experience, he believes will help pedestrians avoid danger.

Avoid any distraction

"You will see people reading books — (while) walking down the street — texting, listening to music; we call them 'pod-destrians,'" Ashdown said. "They are wearing their headphones, (and) they're not going to hear people honk at them, or a fire engine approaching."

Don't race the crosswalk clock

Another common mistake Ashdown sees is people trying to race against the crosswalk clock. His advice is to never cross after the countdown begins.

"Walking at a normal pace, it's going to take us almost the entire time (allotted by the countdown) to cross," he said.

Don't blindly trust white lines

While drivers have to yield to pedestrians, Ashdown said pedestrians must realize the white lines outlining the crosswalk won't prevent a car from hitting you.

"As a pedestrian, you literally want to make sure they see you," Ashdown said. "Don't take the chance if you don't know they see you, wait. Even though you may have the right of way, you're going to lose the fight with the car."

Be especially careful at night

Police say it is also very important to make yourself more visible to drivers at night. Drivers often won't see you after the sun goes down, especially when they are making a turn in the intersection.

Wearing light-colored clothing or carrying a flashlight is a good idea.

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Contributing: Pat Reavy

Photos

Sam Penrod

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