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Pedestrians killed in separate crossing incidents

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

On Saturday night -- within hours of each other -- two pedestrians were killed in separate accidents while crossing major highways.

The first incident happened on Interstate 75 in Forest Park, while the second happened near the intersection of Highway 85 and Garden Walk Blvd., in Riverdale.

At around 9 p.m., Larry Howard, 52, was struck by a white, 2004 Nissan Sentra, while attempting to cross several lanes of traffic on the northbound portion of I-75. The address in the victim's wallet listed him as residing at 3304 Stanback Ferry Iceplant Road in Wadesboro, N.C.

Howard was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with "serious injuries to his head and legs," according to the Clayton County Police incident report. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:51 p.m.

The driver, David Wakhisi, of Fairburn, was not charged, according to Clayton County Police Spokesperson Tim Owens.

Owens said Howard was carrying a camouflaged, military duffle bag and wearing dark clothing at the time he was struck.

"It's against the law to walk on the shoulder of a major interstate," said Owens. "It's dark and you're trying to time the traffic on those three or four lanes. It would be very difficult for anybody to do."

A second incident happened at 11 p.m., about 500 feet north of the intersection of Highway 85 and Garden Walk Blvd., in Riverdale. Robert Sloan, 44, of 8449 Gettysburg Court in Jonesboro, was struck by a white, 2003 Mazda Protege, while attempting to cross Highway 85.

The vehicle, driven by Andrew Kraus, of Mableton, was northbound on the highway. According to the police report, Kraus and two passengers observed several people walking in the median while driving on Highway 85.

As Kraus neared the top of the hill, Sloan attempted to run across the road. Kraus attempted to stop, but was unable to avoid hitting Sloan, according to the police report.

"They did not charge the driver, which leads me to believe that the pedestrian was at fault," said Owens.

Sally Flocks, president of PEDS (Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety), an Atlanta-based pedestrian advocacy group, said pedestrian crossing deaths in metro Atlanta have been on the rise recently, largely due to suburban growth. While metro Atlanta is growing, pedestrian infrastructure has not, she said.

"We have focused so much on building better roads, rather than better connectivity," said Flocks. "Sometimes [pedestrians] are the victim of very poor street design. For people to get to their destination, sometimes they have to do very risky things."

While Flocks said one should never walk along the interstate, she said the county needs to do more to create safe places for pedestrians to walk, especially near major thoroughfares.

"My main advice would be for Clayton County to create more connecting streets, so pedestrians won't get desperate," said Flocks.