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Inattentive drivers just looking for trouble

Wally Grogitsky was helping a client when he noticed the nine missed calls on his cell phone.

He checked the voice mail and heard hysterical cries from his daughter.

Grogitsky’s teen son Michael had been struck by a car, along with friend Carlton Marcus.

The driver had been high on drugs, according to police. Michael was riding a bicycle and Carlton a skateboard when they were hit this past January.

Las Vegas police sent an investigator from the fatal detail because they feared Michael wasn’t going to make it, Grogitsky told me.

But both boys would survive. Probably due to their youth, Grogitsky said.

Michael took the brunt of the impact. He suffered broken bones from his head to his toes. His femur was sticking out of his skin when paramedics arrived.

Carlton suffered a broken leg.

I don’t have to tell you, this is the story no parent ever wants to tell.

But it’s one that has happened often enough in Clark County.

And it has caused valley safety advocates and law enforcement agencies to launch a pedestrian safety campaign for September.

Nevada has already had 36 pedestrian fatalities in 2008, including 34 in Clark County.

So the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Safe Community Partnership, with law enforcement and transportation groups, have begun a monthlong campaign targeting motorists as well as pedestrians.

The campaign will consist of radio and billboard advertisements and will be backed up by targeted stings by law enforcement agencies.

Detective Bill Redfairn said Las Vegas leads the nation in a number of things, some of which we can be proud of. Others, like pedestrian fatalities, not so much so.

For the last decade, Nevada has been in the top 10 for pedestrian fatalities per capita, according to the UNLV Safe Community Partnership.

Having investigated vehicle crashes for years, Redfairn knows pedestrians stand little chance when hit by a vehicle.

“You may not die; but I can guarantee you one thing, life as you knew it before you were struck by a car will not be the same,” he said.

Although motor vehicle fatalities are down this year, Redfairn warns that pedestrian fatalities could easily rise, especially with more folks forgoing using their gas-guzzling cars for public transportation or cycling or walking.

Redfairn said motorists need to be mindful of pedestrians, and pedestrians need to use crosswalks and be doubly careful when crossing streets.

Still, using a crosswalk isn’t enough, said Erin Breen with the UNLV Safe Community Partnership. Just because pedestrians use crosswalks doesn’t mean they are safe, she warned. “The paint on the road is not going to jump up and save your life.”

Redfairn said pedestrians should look left, then right, then left again. They should also make eye contact with motorists to better know the driver’s intention.

Breen said the new advertising campaign will consist of posters that say, “Cross like your life depends on it.” It also will include radio spots targeting motorists.

North Las Vegas police Sgt. Dave Smith said targeted enforcement, like the one his squad did on Friday, will happen throughout the month.

Smith dressed as a civilian and crossed at a crosswalk, and then fellow officers pulled drivers over who did not stop for him.

Smith said that type of targeted enforcement normally yields 290 citations in a day’s work.

In the meantime, Grogitsky and Rachel Marcus told me their sons are still recovering from what happened in January. There was physical therapy and speech therapy. There were follow-up surgeries.

Carlton still limps and Michael has more medical procedures to go through.

The two teens have severe scars, both mental and physical, that will likely stay with them the rest of their lives.

Grogitsky said guilt weighed on him when he was rushing to be by his son’s side in January.

He wondered if there was more he could have taught his son? Was it his fault that his son was struck?

“I am almost paranoid about the way I drive. I stop for the people in the crosswalks. I’m always looking around,” Grogitsky said. “I may be an oddball out there; but if I can push anybody to do what I do, boy I want to do it.”

He advised motorists, “Look around and pay attention. Know where you’re at. Know where the kids are at, because in a split second you won’t only change their lives, but your life and the lives of everyone around them.”

It’s like throwing a rock in a pond, he said. There’s a ripple effect and things are never the same.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or fmccabe@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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