There were more than 2,500 collisions involving pedestrians in Riverside County from 2017 to 2021, according to data from California Highway Patrol. Of those collisions, 371 resulted in the death of at least one person.

It’s been 15 years since Charlie Wolcott was hit by a truck while crossing a busy downtown Corona street.

“He was going across the street to get a haircut,” Dianne Ward, Wolcott’s sister said. “He was hit at 10:30 in the morning, but we didn’t hear about it until 4:30 in the afternoon.”

Ward shared her brother’s story with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning in honor of National Pedestrian Safety Month.

“He had a mild case of cerebral palsy, so he would walk everywhere,” Ward said. “I called him my professional walker.”

On the morning of July 18, 2007, Wolcott left his apartment to get a haircut two blocks away. Ward said he waited at the crosswalk — “he did everything right” — and when traffic stopped, he started to cross. However, one driver failed to stop and struck Wolcott, severely injuring him.

From 2017 to 2021, there were 2,567 collisions involving pedestrians in Riverside County, according to California Highway Patrol. Of those collisions, 371 resulted in the death of at least one person and another 2,009 resulted in the injury of at least one person.

Ward knows firsthand the impact these collisions have on families and communities.

“My mother suffered a massive stroke eight months after, and I had two hospitals to visit,” she said.

Wolcott, who Ward said was in a coma for four and a half years, lived the remainder of his life in a rehabilitation facility where he died Sept. 18, 2018.

“He was the kindest, most amazing human being I’ve ever met to this day,” Ward said. “He called me all the time and would say, ‘Has anybody told you they loved you today?’”

In honor of her brother, Ward founded the nonprofit Charlie’s Cause in 2015 to spread awareness and educate people about the dangers of distracted driving and walking.

“If the pedestrian’s paying attention, they’re not going to get hit,” she said. “If the driver’s paying attention, no distractions, no phones, you’re not going to hit someone.”

Safety Tips For Pedestrians And Drivers

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law the Freedom to Walk Act, which prohibits officers from issuing tickets for jaywalking “unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.”

“Jaywalking laws do more than turn an ordinary and logical behavior into a crime; they also create opportunities for police to racially profile,” Jared Sanchez, senior policy advocate for CalBike, said in a release announcing the bill’s passage. “A jaywalking ticket can turn into a potentially life-threatening police encounter, especially for Black people, who are disproportionately targeted and suffer the most severe consequences of inequitable law enforcement.”

So what can pedestrians and drivers do to keep themselves safe while crossing the street? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the following five tips:

  • Walk on a sidewalk or path.
  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections whenever possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Understand that walking while impaired is dangerous.
  • Never assume that drivers see you.

When it comes to drivers, the NHTSA has the following advice:

  • Look for pedestrians everywhere.
  • Follow pedestrian safety laws in your state or local area.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk.
  • Stay alert where children may be present.
  • Slow down and carefully adhere to posted speed limits.

Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.