Pedestrian fatality fourth in five years on Post Road East
Updated 11:19 am, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
A 68-year-old Fairfield man trying to cross Post Road East, near the intersection with Bulkley Avenue North, was struck and killed Saturday evening by a car driven by a 16-year-old Westport resident -- a dangerous stretch of the busy road where several pedestrians have been killed or seriously injured over the last several years.
The incident triggered renewed calls Monday from local officials for prompt state action on enhanced safety measures along the troubled section of the road near the Shake Shack restaurant, not far from the Fairfield border.
Bruce Tabackman, a lawyer with a Fairfield practice, was identified by police as the pedestrian late Saturday after family was notified.
The incident took place about 6 p.m. when Tabackman -- who police said was not in the crosswalk -- was hit by a car in the westbound lane of Post Road East as he apparently tried to cross the street near the Shake Shack restaurant. He was struck yards from where a second crosswalk has been proposed for the Post Road East-Bulkley Avenue intersection.
Emergency medical treatment was administered as soon as units arrived on the scene, and he was later transported by Westport EMS to Norwalk Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The 16-year-old driver, who was not identified, was alone in the car at the time of the accident. He was not injured and remained at the crash scene. No charges were immediately filed.
The fatality remains under investigation by the Police Department's Accident Investigation Unit and Detective Bureau.
Any witnesses of the accident are asked to call police at 203-341-6000.
Tabackman's death was the fourth pedestrian fatality on Post Road East since 2008.
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff called on the state Monday to quickly move forward with "an additional crosswalk in the area (that) has been in the works for some time now and obviously takes on added urgency with this weekend's tragic death."
Joseloff said he toured the scene of the fatal crash Monday, and also met with the general manager of the Shake Shack and spoke to the senior director of the restaurant's operations in New York.
Joseloff said short-term solutions to the pedestrian dangers could include Shake Shack adding more parking on its side of the street by making arrangements with adjoining property owners.
The first selectman also suggested Shake Shack post signs inside and outside the restaurant warning customers about the dangers of crossing Post Road East outside a crosswalk.
"We have to address this," he said. "We have wrung our hands over the incidents in the last couple of years which are horrible and yet seem avoidable, but we haven't done much to address the problem of what's happening on the Post Road with traffic and speeding with any kind of systemic initiative."
Steinberg suggested measures such as lengthier caution (yellow) traffic lights and four-way red lights at Post Road intersections, as well as examining the placement and quantity of crosswalks along the state highway.
Asked Monday for comment, Police Chief Dale Call said, "I do not have a simple solution to improving pedestrian safety on Post Road East. Crossing where there is no crosswalk is dangerous. Crosswalks that are located mid-block without any signalization are dangerous. No one seems interested in installing lights at mid-block crosswalks and, as evidenced by Shake Shack, few if any people want to walk to an intersection to cross at a light but would rather take the chance on crossing the four lanes" of Post Road East.
"Enforcement," the chief said, "only goes so far and to actually make a difference we'd need to start enforcing pedestrian laws strictly and consistently to try and eliminate mid-block crossings -- and that won't work very well on that section I mentioned when you look at the distance between the light at (the intersection at) Post Road East/Maple Avenue and the light" at Bulkley Avenue.
"At that point you can really crack down on speeding cars, etc., but again it is impossible to be everywhere and once enforcement slows in any one area for a few days the problem comes roaring back," Call said.
The last pedestrian death on the Post Road in Westport took place in December 2010 when a local woman, Sharon Broecking, was struck by an Audi convertible as she tried to cross at a pedestrian crossing at Westfair Drive.
That same month, Ira Eisner, a 93-year-old Stamford man, died from injuries he suffered after being struck by a vehicle on Post Road East.
And in December 2008, another Westport resident, William Ford, died after being struck by a Hyundai sedan while using a Post Road East crosswalk that near the Sasco Creek housing development where he lived.
In November 2011, a Shake Shack employee was hit and seriously injured as she walked across the road outside of a crosswalk near the same Post Road-Bulkley Avenue intersection where Tabackman was struck. She was issued a citation by police for not using a crosswalk and for an alleged failure to yield the right-of-way to a motor vehicle.