By Quintin Ellison
A motorist hit a Western Carolina University student Monday in downtown Sylva as she crossed West Main Street on a crosswalk near Innovation Brewing Co.
Julia Brodeur, 21, suffered visible bumps and scrapes, including on her face. Emergency responders transported the Southern Shores resident by ambulance to Harris Regional Hospital. Tuesday, Sylva Police Chief Chris Hatton said Brodeur was treated and released.
Sylva’s latest crosswalk mishap promises to rekindle town leaders’ ongoing conversation about how to make downtown safer for people on foot.
Within a 12-month span, from October 2017 to October 2018, motorists hit three pedestrians in three separate accidents. One person was struck in the same West Main Street crosswalk as Brodeur. In the other two incidents, motorists struck a pedestrian at the intersection of Main and Spring streets and another at the intersection of Main and Schulman streets.
“I really think it’s about distracted drivers,” town Manager Paige Dowling said Tuesday. “People need to pay attention. You should be able to go to a crosswalk and count on crossing it safely.”
In this latest incident, police charged Raymond Earnest Franks, 66, of 131 Apache Trail, Sylva. He was driving a 2001 Subaru westbound toward the downtown at about 4 p.m. when he struck Brodeur.
Franks’ initial court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 4.
He’ll go to court with a police citation in hand for failure to yield to a pedestrian within a crosswalk. He also faces a misdemeanor criminal charge for not decreasing speed as necessary to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
The speed limit is 20 miles per hour in the downtown.
“Our crosswalks are serious business to the Sylva Police Department,” Chief Hatton said. “This situation is exactly why we do crosswalk enforcement campaigns each and every month.”
During the campaigns, police officers in plainclothes walk the crosswalks while officers in marked patrol cars swoop down on motorists who fail to stop.
“We are all pedestrians at times and safety is all of our responsibility,” Hatton said. “The Sylva Police Department will continue to do enforcement campaigns in our crosswalks in an attempt to prevent these types of incidents.”
After the previous spate of accidents, as Sylva police stepped up crosswalk enforcement, town leaders reviewed their options for making the crosswalks more visible to motorists. The town added orange cones and sandwich-board, pedestrian right-of-way signs and repainted the crosswalks.
Tuesday, Public Works Director Jake Scott said he plans to add still more reflective particulates to the crosswalk paint where police say Franks hit Brodeur.
He also went in search of additional motorist-caution signs from the N.C. Department of Transportation, returning with two pedestrian-crossing signs.
His crew installed them that same day at the crosswalk near Innovation Brewing Co.
Last year, the town to enhance crosswalk visibility budgeted $8,900 to pay for faux brick in the form of stamped asphalt.
That plan stalled, Dowling said, in part because the asphalt is too old for a final coating to adhere. It requires pavement less than five years old.
Sylva’s Main Street is a state highway and repaving isn’t on NCDOT’s current approved schedule.