Awareness can save a life on the road

A car accident last year affected my family's life

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It’s the peak of summer. Everywhere you go people are on the move. Walking, biking, driving, you name it.

But summer also means everyone needs to be more aware of their surroundings.

On Sept. 23, 2017, my then 17-year-old brother was hit by a car as he jaywalked across the street with his girlfriend to see a concert at the Fillmore. My mom had dropped him off on the way to hang out with me at my Capitol Hill apartment. By the time she drove around the corner, the car had struck him, breaking both his legs.

By the time my mom was notified by a friend, an ambulance had whisked my brother to Denver Health. The accident had destroyed his phone and he didn’t have my mom’s new number memorized.

I was glad I was still with my mom: Neither of us handled the news well.

Now, this is usually when people ask me if the driver was drunk, or if they sped away after the accident. The answer is neither. The driver stayed with my brother until the ambulance arrived. I will be forever grateful to a stranger for that.

According to the Denver Police Department, there have been 240 crashes involving pedestrians this year. Of those accidents, 44 had serious bodily injuries and eight were fatal. In 67 of the accidents, the pedestrians were cited.

My brother is recovering well. He had surgery on one leg and wore a boot on the other. He is now walking and back in Aikido, a Japanese martial art.

But the event shook my whole family to the core.

I am a runner, but unlike some people in the sport, I have a lot of difficulty waking at the crack of dawn to get a few miles in. I am more of a run-after-work kind of person. The problem is that this typically puts me outside when it’s dark, making it difficult for drivers to see me.

The Christmas after the accident, my mother not so subtly gave every one of my siblings reflective armbands in our stockings. The message was clear: If you must go out at night, make sure you can be seen. Not only do I sport the armbands during my nighttime runs, but I also invested in a very chic headlamp.

Living in Capitol Hill taught me a lot about driving and walking in Denver. Street parking and tight alleys can make it difficult for drivers to see at the best of times. Add low light and you’ve got a potentially dangerous situation if a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian is not paying enough attention.

My brother still cannot remember pieces of the accident. Crossing the street at busy intersections, even with a crosswalk and the right-of-way, make him nervous. My brother and, likely, the driver will carry the scars of this car accident the rest of their lives.

For me, I have been trying to be more cautious both as a driver and pedestrian.

When I’m out walking or running, I make sure I am visible. Does that mean you have to wear a bright headlamp every time you go out at night? Probably not. But wearing all black, like my brother did, and darting into the road can get you killed. Light-colored clothing items can help a driver see people better.

In the digital age, we don’t have to memorize phone numbers anymore. But what happens when you lose the phone or, in my brother’s case, it gets destroyed? I started keeping important numbers in my wallet.

As a driver, I try to be more aware of pedestrians, particularly at intersections, and near parks and busy nightlife areas.

A lot of this seems straightforward, but one night very nearly changed my life forever. Don’t let it happen to you.

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