Kent sees twice as many fatalities than past four years

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

And while authorities are looking at ways to make the city's roads safer, they say the sudden jump in fatalities defies explanation.

"Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for it," said Captain James Goodlet of the Kent Police Department. "It's just unfortunate circumstances."

Goodlet said in 2000, Kent had no fatalities. In 1999, the city had only one fatality, in 1998 there were two and in 1997, there was one.

Safety Director William Lillich said the city hasn't seen so many fatalities since the 1970s, when such numbers were common. Many of those problems were due to the traffic patterns, and those problems have since been designed out of the system.

"This year was kind of an anomaly," he said.

The first fatality of the year for Kent occurred on Jan. 29, when a 70-year-old man died after a crash on S.R. 261 and Mogadore Road. Other collisions for the year include a crash on Harvey Street, where a car struck a tree, another crash on S.R. 261 which claimed the life of a 63-year-old man, three car-pedestrian crashes and one car-bicycle crash.

In June, Nancy Church of Kent died when her minivan collided with a truck at the intersection of West Main and Mantua streets. Police closed the case without determining which driver went through the red light.

Four of the city's crashes occurred along Water Street, which city officials attributed to the volume of traffic on the street. Those crashes include a man who fell in front of a bus, a 7-year-old girl who darted in front of a car, and a 34-year-old woman whose bicycle was struck by a car. The other car-pedestrian collision was on West Main Street and claimed the life of a 74-year-old man crossing the street.

"Those are the ones that confound us the most," Lillich said. "There's nothing we can do to prevent that."

Lillich said the city is considering a number of measures to address "driver inattention," the most common cause of crashes this year.

A strobe light is planned for three intersections, including two sites of last year's fatalities _ the Main-Mantua intersection, where Church died; the intersections of Mogadore Road and S.R. 261, the site of Kent's first fatality last year; and School and Water streets.

Lillich said the small light will be mounted to the red light and will flash when the light is red, calling more attention to the light.

Signs are also planned to encourage people to be careful on roads with a high crash rates, such as S.R. 261. The signs will be yellow and carry messages such as "be alert" and "hazardous intersection ahead."

Goodlet said the city is also re-assessing its priorities in speed enforcement, sending police to patrol intersections with high crash rates.

"If you lose one life, it's a tragedy," he said. "We don't want that to recur in our city."

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E-mail:dsmith@recordpub.net

Phone: (330) 673-3491

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