AUSTIN, Texas — Detective Patrick Oborski with the Austin Police Department said there have already been five fatal auto-pedestrian crashes in 2019.
"Unfortunately, we’ve been having quite a few the last few years, anywhere from 25 to 30 a year is auto-pedestrians," said Detective Oborski. "It’s sad because it’s preventable."
He said, a majority of the time, it's homeless people going onto the interstate.
"Most of it is just right there at Capital Plaza, right there at 51st Street, like that last one," said the detective. "You’ve got low-income hotels and motels on one side of the highway, and you’ve got places like McDonald's and fast food restaurants on the other. So, instead of a person taking a little bit of extra time to walk around that bridge, they’re going to take the straightest pathway, which is right over 35. So, unfortunately, that area has had a rash of bad crashes over the years."
He said the driver involved is left dealing with a lot of guilt.
"You’re taking someone’s life, even though it’s not necessarily your fault," he said. "You wonder why it happened to you, why it occurred, why the history of that person ... what made them run across the interstate, was there anything they could’ve done to prevent it? A lot of people experience some sort of PTSD. And there’s a big financial impact as well. A lot of people don’t have full-coverage insurance, and if you don’t have full-coverage insurance, who is going to fix your car and get you back and forth to work?"
Mekyala Manning asked herself those same questions in 2017 after she hit and killed someone crossing Interstate Highway 35.
"Just that feeling of killing someone with your car. It’s bad. It stays with you for a while," Manning said.
She still wonders "why" to this day, but now, it's why would someone do that?
"Why would a pedestrian try to cross the highway," asked Manning, saying that was the worst night of her life. "We’re going 70, 75. Some people are going 80 to 85 on I-35 alone. I just still to this day want to know why she would try to cross the highway."
Detective Oborski said the transportation department posted and painted signs on I-35 to deter people from crossing.
He said APD would also like to see fencing put in the medians, in hopes people would stop trying to use the highway as a shortcut.
Detective Oborski said police treat calls about people on the interstate as high priority. This means officers run their lights and sirens in hopes of stopping another auto-pedestrian crash from happening.
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