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Two pedestrian deaths over a two-year period prompt public safety concerns on East River Road in New Glasgow

Site where a pedestrian crossing a McDonalds driveway exit was struck by a vehicle and later died on May 2, 2019. In two years there have been 15 pedestrian-vehicle collusions in New Glasgow and two fatalities on East River Road.
Site where a pedestrian crossing a McDonalds driveway exit was struck by a vehicle and later died on May 2, 2019. In two years there have been 15 pedestrian-vehicle collisions in New Glasgow and two fatalities on East River Road. - Brendan Ahern
NEW GLASGOW, N.S. —

The granddaughter of a man who died after being struck by a vehicle on East River Road wants changes made so that the busy thoroughfare can be safer.

“He was walking to the hospital from the blood clinic,” said Amanda Snow, ten days after the passing of her grandfather John David MacLean. “He had parked there and was walking to the hospital to receive a cortisone shot for his knee.”

On his way to the Aberdeen hospital, MacLean was crossing the driveway exit of a McDonalds restaurant when a motorist who was exiting the driveway collided with him on May 1.

The driver was charged with Failing to Yield to Pedestrian in Crosswalk under the Motor Vehicle Act. According to Snow, both of MacLean’s legs had been broken in the collision.

“He had to wait to go to surgery the next day because he was on morphine,” said Snow. “The surgery went well, both his legs were fixed, but then trying to come out of anesthesia his heart wouldn’t start up.”

MacLean’s passing prompted a continued investigation into the incident by the New Glasgow Major Crimes Unit.

“Any incident on a cross-walk is important to us,” said Const. Ken MacDonald with the New Glasgow Police Department. “There’s a severe consequence not only to family members and friends, but also for the safety of others using those crosswalks.”

MacDonald told The News that the investigation is on-going and was unable to comment on the possibility of additional charges. But Snow says she’s more concerned about peoples’ safety on East River Road.

“It’s terrible. Those four lanes are only 50 km per hour, but most people go faster and trying to cut across four lanes is nearly impossible because it’s always so busy.”

In the last two years there have been 15 motor vehicle collisions involving pedestrians in New Glasgow, according to the NGPD. Including the incident on May 1, two of these collisions resulted in a fatality. Both fatalities occurred on East River Road.

Nov 19, 2018 first responders attending a pedestrian-vehicle collision on East River Road.

Nov 19, 2018 first responders attended a fatal pedestrian-vehicle collision on East River Road.

However, people should not expect upgrades to crosswalks on East River Road any time soon.

“Even though there’s been two fatalities involving motor vehicle and pedestrian collision, those spots wouldn’t warrant an update,” said MacDonald.

Changing or upgrading crosswalks, such as arrows and flashing indicator lights, is determined through traffic surveys collected by the municipality and NGPD.

Since the crosswalks on East River Road are all located at traffic intersections and are marked by traffic lighting systems, they are not being prioritized for upgrades.

“There are a lot of factors involved. Weather, wearing dark clothing at night, and in some cases folks are crossing at non-crosswalk locations,” said MacDonald. “There’s a shared responsibility on part of the pedestrian and the motorist.”

What’s more, the processes for installing new crosswalks or upgrading existing ones are lengthy.

Municipal councilors must first refer to the traffic authority which then assesses the site in conjunction with the police chief and town engineer. A recommendation is then made to council based on that assessment.

Snow, whose grandfather had been struck in a pedestrian crosswalk in front of a busy restaurant, has another solution for motorists exiting these areas.

“I think personally, and I’ve said it many times, that it should be a right turn only,” she said. “I’ve seen them in other places, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t do it here.”

New Glasgow Chief Administrative Officer Lisa MacDonald says that right turn only regulations would likely not improve conditions.

“The traffic authority would have to consider it, but I don’t think you’d find the support with the businesses because you’d be hindering the access points,” she said, adding also that if motorists were required to turn right when leaving these businesses would then increase traffic volume at intersections that are already busy.

“That’s why we expanded East River Road a few years ago to have five lanes,” said MacDonald. “So that they can get in that middle lane and not impede traffic going in either direction.”

With summer on the way, the NGPD says they’re gearing up for an increase in pedestrian foot traffic.

“In the summer, we do see a lot more people walking around,” said Const. MacDonald. “So, we do more crosswalk safety education just to enforce the shared responsibility that motorists and pedestrians have to each other.”

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