Following the death Friday night of a Lee’s Summit woman who got out of her disabled vehicle and was hit by three SUVs on U.S. 71, the Missouri Highway Patrol is urging people whose cars crash or stall to stay in their vehicles whenever possible and wait for help to arrive.
“We work far too many pedestrian deaths,” Highway Patrol Sgt. Collin Stosberg said Sunday.
“The majority of crashes we work, people stay on the roadway. Too many times people get struck.”
According to the Highway Patrol, Joy Johnson, 33, was driving in the southbound lane of U.S. 71 shortly before midnight when her vehicle left the road just north of Missouri 291and crashed into the barrier cable in the median. Witnesses said she got out to inspect her vehicle.
Johnson was standing in the left lane of the highway when she was knocked to the ground by a Ford Escape. Then two other vehicles ran over her.
“It doesn’t appear that charges will be filed at this time,” Stosberg said. “Somehow she ended up on the highway.”
Johnson’s death comes not long after a Missouri Department of Transportation motorist assist operator and a tow truck driver were struck and killed in separate incidents.
In August, tow truck driver Blake A. Gresham, 18, was hit by a truck while trying to help a woman with a flat tire on Interstate 35, near the Christopher S. Bond Bridge in Kansas City.
Clifton Scott, a 15-year MoDOT veteran, was killed last month while providing traffic control assistance at an accident scene on Interstate 70 in eastern Jackson County. The driver of the car that allegedly struck Scott was charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter.
So far this year, there have been 1,470 pedestrian traffic accidents in Missouri, 128 of them fatal, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.
It’s not clear from the data how many of the cases were similar to the one involving Johnson, but 10 of the deaths involved pedestrians who were standing, lying or sitting on the road.
“Every situation is different, but whatever you do, stay out of the roadway,” Stosberg warned.
Anytime there is an accident, other drivers will gawk, and they will be looking for wreckage, not for people, Stosberg said. Dangers multiply when gawkers slow down and drivers behind them have to take evasive action.
“It’s like taking Matchbox cars and throwing them over the highway,” Stosberg said. “It’s unpredictable.”
Stosberg said anyone who is involved in an accident should drive off the road if they can and call 911 or *55, which will put them in touch with the Highway Patrol. Then they should stay in their vehicle.
The exception is if a driver can’t move his vehicle off the road, Stosberg said. In that case, “get out and get as far away from your vehicle as possible.”