BANGOR, Maine — Early one evening in January, Maureen Waltz crossed Route 9 outside her Eddington home to retrieve her mail, something she had done countless times before. This night, she never made it back home.
A plow-truck driver apparently did not see the woman in the dark by the road. He struck the 46-year-old mother of two, killing her instantly.
The accident was the latest in a series of tragedies involving pedestrians recently, but Waltz’s death hit home for many in Bangor because of her considerable civic ties to the community.
In an effort to improve pedestrian safety and also to memorialize the woman’s contributions to Bangor, city leaders have introduced a pedestrian safety light program named, “Maureen’s Way.”
City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer, who sponsored the program that offers blinking visibility lights for pedestrians free of charge, said this week, “If we can avoid one accident, this will be worth it.”
The city’s health care provider, CIGNA, donated a limited number of LED strobe lights for pedestrians to wear on their jackets. They can be picked up at Bangor’s Central Fire Station on Main Street during regular business hours.
If the program is successful, Palmer said, the city should consider expanding it.
“We’ll have to see how much of a demand there is,” he said.
Councilor Hal Wheeler, who supported the program this week, called it a “small symbol of our sense of community.”
Waltz was employed by Eastern Maine Development Corp. and the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau. By all accounts, she was well-respected and will be missed.
“Maureen was special to us in a lot of ways and this is a fitting way to remember her,” said Kerrie Tripp, Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau director.
The driver who struck and killed Waltz told police he did not see her until it was too late. There are no streetlights in that area of Route 9 and police said she was wearing dark clothing.
Last December, a pair of accidents claimed the lives of two pedestrians. Beulah Ireland, 90, of Lincoln was struck and killed by a logging truck as she tried to get her mail. Billie Jean Davis, 38, of Bangor was struck by a plow truck in downtown Bangor and later died at a local hospital.
Palmer acknowledged that the blinking pedestrian lights are a small measure but certainly are better than nothing at all.
City officials said that during the winter months, when snowbanks pile high and the sun sets early, pedestrian safety is all the more important. The Bangor Police Department encourages pedestrians to follow rules and guidelines and offered these suggestions:
— When use of a sidewalk next to a street is practicable, a pedestrian may not walk on the street.
— Where sidewalks are not provided or impassible, a pedestrian should walk facing approaching traffic on the left side of the street or on the street shoulder.
— A pedestrian must yield the right of way to a vehicle when crossing a street unless there is a marked crosswalk.
— A pedestrian should not cross in the middle of a block where there are traffic signals at the adjacent intersections unless there is a marked crosswalk.
— A pedestrian should not cross diagonally at an intersection unless authorized to do so by traffic-control devices, or suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the operator to yield.