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Maine’s 144 traffic deaths in 2013 down from previous year, pedestrian deaths hit 11

Posted Jan. 03, 2014, at 5:38 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 03, 2014, at 8:31 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Norridgewock man who was struck by a vehicle on New Year’s Eve while returning home from visiting a neighbor across the street is recorded as the last of 144 deaths on state roadways in 2013, according to a spokesman for the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

Stanley Worthley, 70, was struck at about 5 p.m. Wednesday while crossing U.S. Route 2 near his home by a Toyota Highlander driven by William Young, 65, of Fayette. His death is the second pedestrian fatality in Maine in the last two weeks, said James Tanner, a contract grant specialist with the bureau of highway safety.

The Norridgewock septuagenarian was taken to Redington-Fairview Hospital in Skowhegan and then transferred in a LifeFlight of Maine helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where he died.

Unofficially, there were 21 fewer deaths on Maine highways in 2013 than the previous year, but the total was still more than 2011’s record low 136, according to Tanner.

“We had 144,” he said Thursday. “We had 165 highway fatalities in 2012.”

The figure for 2013 will not become official until the end of January.

Over the last five years, the state has averaged 153 roadway deaths annually, which is more than 120 less than 1970 — the worst year on record — when 276 people died on Maine roads. The state’s traffic fatalities in 2011 matched a low benchmark set in 1959.

“We’re definitely below the 5-year average this year,” Tanner said.

The 2013 highway deaths included 12 motorcycle or moped fatalities, a 50 percent decrease; 11 fatalities involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19, a decrease from 14 last year; and four deaths involving a bicycle, an increase from one in 2012.

There were zero moose-related roadway fatalities in 2013, a decrease from two in 2012.

The biggest change was in the number of fatalities involving motorized two-wheel vehicles, Tanner said.

“In 2012 we had 24 and this year we had 12,” he said. “The number of motorcycle fatalities was 11, but with the moped [fatality in April in Kennebunk] the total was 12.”

A relatively rainy summer and increased educational outreach to drivers to be cautious around motorcyclists may be contributing factors to the decrease, Tanner said.

Many of the deaths included speeding drivers or those going too fast for road conditions, he said.

According to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, an average of 10 pedestrians are fatally struck by vehicles each year in the state.

Worthley was the 11th pedestrian killed in Maine during 2013. About two weeks ago, a Bangor-area transient, 43-year-old Larry Furbush, was the 10th pedestrian killed by a motorist in 2013, when he was struck and dragged almost three-quarters of a mile on Dec. 21.

Furbush was hit by Darren Matheson, 48, of New Brunswick, Canada, on Vermont Avenue without Matheson realizing it, Bangor police have said.

“He felt the car hit something in the roadway which looked like a large piece of ice that may have fallen from a truck,” Bangor police Sgt. David Bushey wrote in the initial report filed with the Maine Crash Reporting System.

The initial report states Furbush was intoxicated, but also states an alcohol test is pending, and that he was improperly in the roadway.

Matheson drove his Buick Enclave to the Airport Mall and found Furbush when he exited his SUV in the Hannaford parking lot.

No charges have been filed in connection with the Bangor death, Rumsey said Thursday, saying that the case is still under investigation due to pending toxicology tests. The Norridgewock fatality also is still under investigation. A message seeking comment was left Thursday with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the fatality.

BDN reporter Abigail Curtis contributed to this story.

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