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Father and Son Hit While Walking Across Washington Road in Princeton

princetonpolice_2A West Windsor resident and his eight-year-old son were struck by a Jeep Liberty while crossing Washington Road this afternoon, police said.

The incident took place just after 3 p.m. on Washington Road south of the Carnegie Lake Bridge. The 2005 Jeep Liberty, operated by Matthew Benjamin, 28, of Dayton, was traveling south on Washington Road and passed a vehicle on the right that was stopped in the southbound lane. Upon passing the stopped vehicle, Benjamin’s vehicle struck two pedestrians, Richard J. Regan, 54, and his 8-year-old son, who were standing on the shoulder of the roadway with their bicycles.

The father and son suffered serious injuries and were transported by the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad to Capital Health Systems at Fuld, Princeton Police said.

The Jeep sustained front end damage and was towed from the scene.

Washington Rd. was closed between Faculty Rd. and Route 1 for approximately three hours while the investigation was conducted. The roadway reopened at approximately 6 p.m.

The Mercer County Prosecutors Office Serious Collision Response Team responded to the accident scene and assisted with the investigation.

The accident is still under investigation and no charges have been filed at this time, police said.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Lieve

    Yes, I assume the first car had stopped to let them cross, very politely so, and number two either went too quickly to stop, or just thought, what the hell is he stopping for, I can just squeeze past and continue on my merry way. I once stopped at the pedestrian crossing at Community Park School to let 3 kids cross – a white van PASSED me – fortunately, the kids were still in front of my car – but that could have been horrific. What’s the hurry, everyone?

  • SFB

    The T&T meeting was tonight. We passed a resolution calling for Princeton Council to work with Mercer County to put a new crosswalk in on Washington where the D&R canal towpath crosses. I asked about enforcement of existing crosswalks, and the police Traffic Safety officer, Sgt Murray, suggested that residents should call him if they have concerns. Several other pedestrian safety measures were also on the agenda, including ‘all-ways cross’ signals on Nassau Street.

  • SFB

    Princeton Traffic and Transportation committee discussed this incident at the meeting tonight and passed a resolution for Council to try to work with the County to add a crosswalk where the D&R canal trail crosses Washington Road. Regarding enforcement of crosswalks, the police traffic safety officer, Sgt Murray, encourages residents to contact him if they have an issue with enforcement. The addition of many other safety measures around the town, including ‘all-ways cross’ signals at Nassau Street, were also discussed.

  • SFB

    Princeton Traffic and Transportation committee passed a motion tonight calling on Council to work with the County to put in a new crosswalk at the D&R canal towpath crossing at Washington Road. In response to the question of enforcement, Sgt Murray, the police traffic safety officer said that any resident who has a question about enforcement of any particular crosswalk should call him immediately. Many other safety initiatives, including ‘all-way stop’ signals on Nassau Street, were discussed.

  • Joe

    I agree with Pecos Fred. I wait until there is a pause in the traffic and a safe opening for me to sprint across the street. The driver of the Jeep Liberty was probably going too fast to stop and so opted to go around the stopped car rather than crash into it, (assuming he did not see the pedestrians until it was too late). It’s just a horrific situation. Many drivers are new to the area and know nothing of the tow paths and don’t get why some cars are stopped. They are oblivious to the signage and are going too fast.

  • Pecos Fred

    The D&R crossing warning light system on Alexander Road doesn’t work and the last time I was there, the one on Harrison didn’t work either. Is it fixed now? As for Washington road, there are no warning lights, probably because sight lines are good there.

    I assume that car #1 stopped to let the father & son cross. They naturally assumed that cars behind #1 would also stop. Big mistake! I suggest RUNNING across when there are no cars as far as the eye can see.

    Even if the warning lights worked, the crossings at Harrison and Alexander are adjacent to curves (especially bad on Harrison) so that even if the lights worked, a speeder might not see pedestrians in time.

  • Pecos Fred

    When was the last time you saw a cop not in a cruiser? I wonder what happened to the bikes that Borough police used to ride around on.

  • Jim

    The event was the Princeton Cross Country Invitational

  • hme

    I agree with “safe streets?”

  • RodneyA

    Too bad you can’t legislate bad judgement. This driver appears to be the type to disregard any signals because he is probably a narcissist who doesn’t feel the laws should apply to him. Better pedestrian safety won’t stop all crashes. Sure it will stop some, but there will always be idiots who just don’t care.

  • JustAsking

    Could you ask the Traffic & Transp. committee to read this webpage and they can put this on their list of goals?

  • Jim

    Any update on their condition?

  • SFB

    The Traffic and Transportation committee are setting goals for 2015 tomorrow night. Come along and give your input. 5.15 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon Street.

  • JustAsking

    Why doesn’t the town simply act to create safer facilities? Are there people arguing against safer facilities? Why do the town leaders need to hear a stronger voice before taking action?

    Simple things that could be done now: 1. Enforce the pedestrian laws now. They did when the law was first introduced, but I’ve seen cars drive through the crosswalks (with pedestrians crossing) when police cars where sitting right there, and nothing happened. 2. Make sure cars stop for the pedestrians at the crosswalks near the lake. As a cyclist, I find many cars don’t stop.

  • SFB

    I agree with all that, but the deeper you dig into questions of pedestrian and cycling safety, the more you realize how much effort it takes to get stuff done. A major reason for the bike ride today was to bring people together to try to create a stronger voice for cyclists to petition the town for safer facilities. That’s why it’s frustrating to have people ignore our event or call it a ‘photo-op’. This week there are regular meetings of the town Traffic and Transportation committee and Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory committee. If you want to learn more, it would be a good idea to attend one or both.

  • SafeforKids?

    Sounds like a lovely ride and I hope you and the mayor and friends enjoy this beautiful day riding in the park! But I think the point is that if the only safe place for kids (and adults) to ride their bikes is on park paths that loop around enclosed parks then the town has a ways to go before it deserves to claim the “safe streets” and “bike friendly” distinction. Appreciate your organizing effort but we need at least such organizing effort applied to concrete measures such as safe crossings, intersections and ride/walkways where people actually travel to get to and from places like schools, shopping and recreational activities. I hear over again from parents that they don’t feel their kids have safe routes to school, that simple things like traffic calming pedestrian crossing signs and structures are not proactively promoted by the town. Even though we supposedly have a town committee for this, it always seems to take significant effort by individuals on a street by street, crosswalk by crosswalk basis to get things as simple and inexpensive as “ped xing” signs on crosswalks, and then its just one crosswalk at a time. Why aren’t ALL significant crossing analyzed for support by signage (thinking of Mercer Road, Nassau, Snowden, Harrison, Wiggins, Witherspoon, etc, etc, all have obvious crossings directly on route to and from town residential and resource areas that are not pedestrian friendly)? People who want to ditch their cars can’t because priorities like development and parking seem higher than supporting pedestrian and biking in this town. I know it is given lip service with proclamations and such, but I’ve been to several towns (many with far less resources than ours) where there really are decent bikeways and walkways and our town unfortunately is just not anywhere near in the top tier of “bike-ped friendly”. Its a shame that on such wonderful fall days its just not safe to enjoy biking along (let alone biking to) the towpath park, which is one of our state park treasures that we are so fortunate to have pass through here in Princeton.

  • Faith Bahadurian

    After years of harrowing close calls while crossing Washington Road at the University crosswalk near the pedestrian bridge (before you get to Carnegie Lake), I can attest that the kind of lights buried in the walkway are not adequate. They don’t show up in daylight, and they break. Now they have put up large flashing lights (and signage) on tall posts on either side of the road. I hope that works, but thankfully, I no longer have to brave that fearful crossing. It’s shocking how people speed up as they head out of Princeton down that hill, and I never, ever saw any law enforcement there during rush hour.
    Maybe you need both types of lighting/signage, because for some people, almost nothing will be enough to wake them up to the fact that people are trying to cross. Considering this driver was in a big vehicle and the stopped car was a “normal height” Accord, he should have been able to see the pedestrians, a “luxury” those of us not driving large vehicles don’t have if there happens to be one in front of us. Short story – ASSUME there’s a good reason the person in front of you has stopped, and be patient, or proceed with great caution.

  • SFB

    I’m helping to organize today’s ‘Ride of the Falling Leaves’, and I totally reject the idea that it’s some kind of ‘photo op’ event. It’s an opportunity to bring together the whole community in a celebration of safe cycling, and to build the cycling community in Princeton. A lot of work has gone into selecting the safest possible route, working with the police, and organizing what should be a really fun ride. And that work has been done by local residents who are volunteers. We wouldn’t do a bike ride down Washington Road, because it’s supposed to be safe for all ages, and there is no way to get down there without riding on a busy road.

    The bike ride today is just one of many initiatives that are taking place to promote safe, enjoyable cycling in Princeton. If anybody is interested in finding out what is going on, come out and join us and talk to one of our officials. We can also give you information on how best to advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety. The ride starts at 1 p.m. at Community Park South, and is a 3.5 mile loop through Mountain Lakes park with hot cider half-way round. Here is a link for more details: http://pjpbac.blogspot.com/2014/10/event-info-re-2nd-annual-mayors-ride-of.html

  • PrettySmart1

    I couldn’t agree more. Often, scofflaws in cars decide to play a game of chicken with bicyclists and pedestrians trying to cross where the towpath meets a road. Moreover, at the crossings that have lights (when they’re working), the lights aren’t visible when you’re trying to cross–you have to take your chances on whether they are flashing. I think I’m going to start taking down the license plate numbers of people who drive through the crosswalk while I’m in it. In the meantime, I wish the two who were hit a full and speedy recovery from their injuries.

  • Edward R. Percarpio

    Here’s a radical idea: instead of installing lighted crosswalks, why not have a real human being crossing guards at the D&R crossings on weekends at Alexander, Washington and Harrison ? Instead of focusing on ticketing cars of visitors to the town, redeploy those folks to saving lives.

  • Safe Streets?

    Kudos to you in Pennington for electing muni officials who apparently get that some of what it means to be a municipal elected official is to ADVOCATE for your people to get real tangible things done that really impact the safety and enjoyment of the town by pedestrians and bicyclists. There’s always going to be a County, State or even Federal government just like there’s always going to be deep pocketed corporate interests with well paid lawyers in the way of getting things done. Unfortunately, even in the face of such accidents or even when the “people” raise their voices and attend council meetings to demand action, what OUR municipal elected officials seem to like to do – rather than TAKE ON the bigger gov and/or big money on behalf of the citizens – is to hire two or three lawyers they know to write position papers on why they are oh so sorry but totally constrained from doing anything.

    If our council means business for bike and pedestrian safety issues, they need to do more than organizing photo ops. The mayor’s photo op bike ride today should be re-routed with police support to ride through the area where this accident occurred to highlight to all those County, etc, officials that Princeton means business when it comes to our so-called “safe streets” and “bike friendly” town and that we are “taking back” this crossing site to make it safe for people. Ironically, apparently these victims were from West Windsor, when I lived in WW town officials from that municipality participated with the local bike-ped advocacy group in bike rides and walks in areas where there were significant pedestrian and bike safety issues using their elected official status to highlight and ADVOCATE for positive changes like better crosswalks and intersection control (rather than just to gather token designations of bicycle and pedestrian “friendliness” and photo op pics).

  • MVerdoux

    I went past there on this exact same route about two hours earlier and it was an absolute mess due to some gigantic event being held in the field.

  • Joe

    My thoughts and prayers go to the father and son, I wish them a complete recovery from their injuries. This really strikes home for me since I regularly bike on the towpath. You literally take your life into your hands crossing Harrison Street, Washington Road or Alexander Road, even with the flashing lights at some of the pedestrian crossings. Some drivers will stop for the pedestrians or cyclists while other drivers will keep speeding by on the other side of the road. Heck, I was almost hit by a car near the old red mill house in Kingston on the old roadway by the parking lot. Fortunately, the car was not going fast (because this old roadway is more like a driveway) but the car came within inches of hitting me.

  • SFB

    It doesn’t hurt to contact your local officials, but at the end of the day, they do not have jurisdiction. Sometimes the County staff will act on recommendations from local officials, but other times they will not. Either way, the only body that has power to make improvements to a County road is the County.

    My thoughts are with the injured parties. As somebody who cycled down that same shoulder this morning, I am very upset to hear that other cyclists were badly hurt while enjoying a ride on a beautiful fall day.

  • Kate O’Neill

    Lighted crossways now exist in Pennington on both county roads that bisect the Borough, and they were installed because we had a Council member who knew how to make it happen. Check with the Borough administrator and she will give advice.

  • SFB

    It’s a County Road, so no local governing body has authority to do that. I’d suggest you write to our local Mercer County Freeholder, Andrew Koontz, at akoontz@mercercounty.org and ask him what the County is doing to promote safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Fatou324

    Krystal, what governing body has the power to put up lighted crosswalks here (as there are at the towpath crossings at Washington and Alexander)? I’m sure I’m not the only citizen who would like to advocate for better pedestrian safety measures at this crossing.

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