World Remembrance Day honors those injured in traffic crashes

Police in the 1900 block of Antone Street in East Austin after a 10-year-old boy was hit by a car. Sept. 12, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)
Police in the 1900 block of Antone Street in East Austin after a boy was hit by a car. Sept. 12, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For every one traffic-related death there are more than 100 traffic-related injuries, many of which are life-alerting. On Monday, Vision Zero ATX, ATX Walks and partner organizations hosted a memorial walk and candlelight vigil on Monday to commemorate World Remembrance Day and all those affected by traffic crashes in Austin.

The Memorial Walk left from City Hall at 5 p.m. followed by the vigil at 6 p.m.

Our local communities are no stranger to the cumulative toll of traffic violence. One family who will be at the vigil tonight is honoring a young boy hurt in his own neighborhood.

On Sept. 12, Ben Sears was being dropped off in his Mueller neighborhood when he was hit by a truck. Ben suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for several weeks. He’s currently fighting to recover from a vegetative state in a facility in Dallas.

His aunt, Kathy Sokolic, does not know how long he will be in recovery or what the future holds for Ben.

“I really just try to talk to everybody about it and let them know that it can happen to anybody. That was a freak accident. It can really just happen to anybody. And it really impacts your life,” Sokolic said.

Sokolic says she wanted to get involved with the Day of Remembrance to raise awareness and encourage people to slow down, especially in your own neighborhood.

“It’s very easy to go 30, 35 miles per hour down the street and… the speed limit is 30. A 30 mph crash generally kills people,” she said.

She’s hoping things can be done on a city level as well that may help drivers slow down and pay attention.

“We can lower the speed limits. We can put traffic calming measures into place. And just make people aware that you know, when you’re in a residential neighborhood, you need to slow down and pay attention especially if there are a lot of kids or animals in that neighborhood. Slow down,” Sokolic urged.

Since 2005, the United Nations has recognized World Remembrance Day to remember those whose lives have been lost or irrevocably altered by traffic deaths and injuries. Austin will be among numerous cities throughout the U.S. and abroad that will hold commemorative events.

Of the 102 traffic-related deaths in Austin last year, 30 people died while walking in Austin, while many more were seriously injured.

The walk and vigil come just before the 2017 Texas Legislative session, where Vision Zero ATX advocates seek to work with representatives in Austin and other Texas cities to lower state-wide default minimum speed limits.