Pedestrian dies in Westwood; officials, Girl Scouts work on safety

Police and emergency medical services respond after a pedestrian was struck by a motor vehicle on Feb. 6 at 10:11 a.m. The 77-year-old borough woman was crossing Broadway when struck; she later died from the injuries she sustained. Photo by Boyd A. Loving

BY JOHN SNYDER
OF PASCACK PRESS

WESTWOOD, N.J. — A 77-year-old resident died on Feb. 6, hours after sustaining serious head and internal injuries when she was struck by a car while crossing Broadway at Irvington Street near Westwood House.

The driver, an 86-year-old woman from River Vale, was issued a summons for careless driving, police said. No criminal charges have been filed.

The fatality is being studied by the borough’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force and is much on the minds of local Girl Scouts, who are working on a related safety project.

Police were hunting for video evidence to shed light on the incident, which was reported Feb. 6 at 10:11 a.m.

The pedestrian was rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack for treatment and observation.

She died that afternoon at approximately 5 p.m., police said the next day.

Police explained that the driver was making a left turn onto Broadway from Irvington Street.

Conditions at the time of the incident were fair, and all crosswalks were properly indicated, Mayor John Birkner Jr. reported at the Feb. 6 meeting of the mayor and council.

According to Westwood police Lt. Jay Hutchinson, the investigation is ongoing. It was not clear by close of business Feb. 6 whether the pedestrian was in the crosswalk at the time of the collision.

“We’re trying to determine that. We’re not 100 percent sure. We’re trying to find some video,” Hutchinson said at the time.

Police added on Feb. 7 that the department extends its condolences to everyone involved.

Officials have been working to make sure pedestrians and drivers stay alert to the rules of the road, particularly to do with crosswalk safety.

The borough’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force has been studying similar incidents in the municipality, has stepped up police enforcement, installed lighting and signage, promoted related awareness materials, and plans to come out with an action report.

The task force pools the expertise of residents, the police department, and the borough engineer.

The group was formed in June 2017 in response to spring incidents in which three female pedestrians, one pregnant, were struck down at Westwood and Center, and another in which a pedestrian was seriously injured after being struck by a vehicle driven by an elderly motorist outside Westwood Cemetery on Kinderkamack Road.

A 30-year-old borough woman was run over at Center and Westwood avenues by a borough man, 76, driving a pickup truck the late afternoon of Dec. 18, 2017.

The driver was issued four summonses.

Councilman Chris Montana, who leads the task force, said the best approach for drivers and pedestrians is to approach the streets defensively: pedestrians shouldn’t expect that they’ve been seen; drivers should anticipate that pedestrians might “pop up out of nowhere.”

“It’s the human factor. It’s challenging,” Montana said.

The task force has been giving certain areas more scrutiny than others: Westwood at Center and Fairview, Broadway and Washington, Kinderkamack and Old Hook, and Irvington and Broadway are hot spots, he said.

A number of secondary sites are under review as well, Montana said.

Girl Scouts tackling pedestrian safety

Coincidentally at the Feb. 6 meeting of the mayor and council, Girl Scouts from Troop 4730, including Jenna Visich and Mia Marinkovic, who have been partnering with the Department of Public Works on installing crosswalk signal flags downtown as part of their Silver Award work, updated the governing body on their progress.

Troop 4730 Girl Scouts Mia Heid, Jenna Visich, Mia Marinkovic and Alexa Kenny at the meeting of the mayor and council at borough hall on Feb. 6. Photo by John Snyder

They showed off flags with signed instructions for use: “Alert traffic when you want to cross. Pick up flag before entering crosswalk. Leave flag in container on other side of the street.”

“We see a need for safety at the crosswalks and we think we can make a difference. This is a big issue because people go into town a lot, especially people our age, and we don’t want people getting hit by cars,” Mia said at a council meeting late last year.

The girls want the flags to be used on both sides of Washington Avenue leading from the park to the Iron Horse; at each corner of Fairview and Westwood Avenue at the post office; at Center and Westwood, at Starbucks, and near Westwood House, and said the project could be up and running by March 1.

The scouts acknowledged the help of the group Westwood for All Ages and donations from Lepore’s Italian Market, Tyrrells Flowers and Gifts, Goldberg’s Famous Bagels, The Canteen, Tons of Toys, P. J. Finnegan’s, and Ludovica.