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Macon-Bibb pedestrian fatality group getting closer look at investigations

In this Telegraph file photo, Bibb County Sheriff's fatality investigators gather evidence along the 3100 block of Broadway in south Macon where a log truck hit a pedestrian on Dec. 10, 2014.
In this Telegraph file photo, Bibb County Sheriff's fatality investigators gather evidence along the 3100 block of Broadway in south Macon where a log truck hit a pedestrian on Dec. 10, 2014. bcabell@macon.com

When it meets Tuesday, a newly formed pedestrian death review panel will learn more about law enforcement’s behind-the-scenes work after a fatality crash.

It will be the Macon-Bibb Pedestrian Fatality Review Board’s second meeting. The group, which formed in April after approval by county commissioners, plans to review each pedestrian death, with an aim to pursue initiatives that could help reduce such deaths, including better lighting in spots.

There have been 24 pedestrian deaths across Bibb County since 2013, including six so far this year.

At Tuesday’s scheduled meeting, Bibb County sheriff’s Capt. Eric Walker, one of the board’s nine members, wants committee members to walk away with a more holistic understanding of pedestrian fatality investigations.

“There’s more behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t realize goes on,” he said. “We just want to let them know the things we look at.”

Board members also will review recent death investigations that are complete, said Chris Tsavatewa, another board member. Bibb County’s most recent pedestrian fatalities won’t be reviewed because they’re still under investigation.

“We have to be able to make informed recommendations based upon a totality of information,” said Tsavatewa, chairman of Middle Georgia State University’s Health Services Administration program and also a member of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Health.

Last month, the board reviewed some of the closed pedestrian cases and began outlining strategies for the coming months.

The board is also organizing subcommittees to help provide a more comprehensive view of what’s going on, he said.

The group also wants to increase coordination with outside departments, such as the Macon Transit Authority, Tsavatewa said.

From a law enforcement perspective, Walker said he hopes the board is able to help teach Macon residents that they need to be aware of their surroundings, among other priorities.

“One thing that we would like to see is just an educational standpoint, saying: You can’t just walk out in front of a car. You have to take the time to make sure the roadways are clear and crosswalks are available. Try to wear lighter clothing,” he said.

Looking to the future, Commissioner Elaine Lucas -- who spearheaded the initiative -- said she wants the board to institute changes to respond to concerns quickly.

Among them is one pressing question: ”Is there something that we can do immediately to increase pedestrian visibility and safety?,” she asked.

Lucas said it’s unrealistic for the committee to resolve all of Macon’s pedestrian fatality issues, but members can focus on areas in Macon that need improvement.

“As much as possible we want to anticipate that there could be a situation with poor lighting and other kinds of things ... and maybe create a SPLOST that focuses on lighting or sidewalks,” she said.

Walker said it’s going to take behavior changes to make Macon safer for pedestrians.

“The biggest thing is when people are walking on the roadways -- whether it be an adult or child -- they have to realize that they have to be aware of their surroundings and traffic patterns,” he said. “We don’t want people injured.”

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