Recent hit-and-runs raise concerns over pedestrian safety

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Alaska's winter darkness is a dangerous time to be out on the streets, but Anchorage organizations are equipping pedestrians with reflective gear to make them more visible to traffic.

Channel 2 has covered a number of fatal hit-and-run incidents here in Anchorage over the past few months:

June 5: UPDATE: Victim and driver in fatal hit-and-run identified

June 20: Police identify 23-year-old woman killed in hit-and-run

Oct. 13: Anchorage police arrest suspect in deadly hit-and-run

Nov. 12: Investigators tracked hit-and-run-vehicle with traffic cameras

Bean's Cafe Executive Director Lisa Sauder confirms the woman who was killed in the Nov. 12 hit-and-run, 35-year-old Michele Kulukhon, was a client at the shelter.

Thursday’s pedestrian safety event at Bean’s Cafe is part of a collective, citywide effort to reduce vehicle - pedestrian collisions just days after a fatal hit and run in Wasilla that remains under investigation.

Sauder says she’s seen too many people lost to these preventable collisions.

"We know we lose several clients every year, usually to pedestrian-vehicle injury, and that's traumatic for everybody," Sauder said.

She says reflective vests, tape and blinking lights given out on Thursday are tools that could potentially reduce these accidents in Anchorage.

"It's so important this time of year when it's dark out,” Sauder said. “There's now snow-covered sidewalks and roadways, and it's very difficult for people, who their primary mode of transportation is as a pedestrian, to remain safe.”

Cargo routing company Tote Maritime donated the safety vests and reflective tape, Alaska Injury Prevention Center contributed socks and hand-warmers, and the Southcentral Foundation gave out tips and resources on how to stay warm.

"We're just happy we can be part of the safety movement," Tote Maritime Alaska Sales Manager Dale Westerlin said. “It's great to see that smile on their face and know that they're going to be safer."

A woman who goes by the name of “Suzy Q” told Channel 2 how excited she was about her new gear.

"Yes I'm very happy,” Suzy Q said with a smile. “Somebody can finally see me when I'm walking on my walker."

But the big takeaway from Thursday’s efforts is a reminder to local commuters to stay alert when driving through areas with high volumes of pedestrian traffic.

“Remind people to slow down!” Sauder said. “It's winter. It's dark. There are lots of pedestrians out there."

More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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