Injured pedestrian speaks up about speeding and traffic concerns in Saugus

SAUGUS — An elderly man who was seriously injured when he and his wife were struck by a car on Central Street, limped into Town Hall to demand safer streets for pedestrians.

“I think speed bumps would really make everybody slow down, especially in front of schools and in front of centers,” said Robert Hoffman, who doesn’t think installing lights and stop signs will be enough. “It would be a far more inexpensive way to control your traffic and I would greatly appreciate it. Especially my wife, who can no longer walk. She’s been crippled.”

Hoffman and his wife Judy were struck along the Northern Strand Community Trail in January. Both suffered serious injuries and were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

“Last week, I almost got nailed crossing in front of Town Hall by an old lady who wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “Just blew right by me. Damn near took me over.”

Within the next few months, the Board of Selectmen will meet to discuss pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver safety. The focus has been on the Essex Street area lately after a series of crashes, including one fatal, but the problem exists across town, said Chairwoman Debra Panetta in a meeting last week.

In May, a 24-year-old Lynn man was struck at the intersection of Walnut Street and Walden Pond Avenue while crossing the street wearing headphones.

In 2016, while a 9-year-old and his 15-year-old brother waited for their mother to make a quick stop at Kohl’s, they walked to Walgreens to kill time. A car stopped to let the boys cross Walnut Street, but a 29-year-old Saugus man driving a Nissan Rogue passed the car, striking the 9-year-old in the crosswalk.

The driver turned right into the Walgreens parking lot, dragging him beneath his car.

A hearing on whether to install stop signs on Whitney Street at the intersections of Eustis Street, Mount Vernon Street, and on Warden Street at the intersection of Eustis Street will be continued to the next scheduled meeting.

Robert Camuso, a Precinct 2 Town Meeting member, said he is concerned with the number of people who speed out of Warden and Whitney streets.

“These stop signs being suggested are only going to help,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll solve the problem, but with enforcement, it will help solve some of it.”

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said in a letter that he has spoken with the chief of police regarding traffic concerns and requested police look into speeding on the main roads.

“In addition, I have requested his department to explore grant funding and locations for solar speed and stop signs and other sign options as we see in other surrounding communities,” said Crabtree.

By the end of the summer, Crabtree expects to receive input on how to alleviate the problem from the police, he said.

Essex Street resident Kathy Oterson said Wednesday she has lived in Saugus her entire life and she doesn’t believe the blinking light on Essex Street slows down motorists.

Ann Condon, who lives at the corner of Felton and Essex streets, said she has observed a lot of accidents through her kitchen window in the 35 years she has lived in her home.

She made three recommendations to the board: to repair the cap over the blinking light that is broken, to repair two water hole covers that are causing tires to get stuck in the road and to replace a fallen “no parking” sign on the corner.

“Those are the three things I think the community would expect to get done before you meet (again),” said Condon. “There are a tremendous amount of children that have moved into that neighborhood. We as adults, I believe, need to make this a safer environment for them.”

The date for the discussion has not yet been determined, said Panetta, but the board voted on the continuation to give the police time to explore options.

“I’m very concerned about being hit and reliving it every night is a nightmare,” said Hoffman. “You know my wife and how strong she was. She cannot move because of this. You’ve got to raise that road. Once you raise the road, those speeders are going to slow down.”

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