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Blind couple lead safety walk at Santa Rosa crosswalk where they were struck

Erik Smiley and Karen Ledger-Leydecker, the blind couple struck by a car as they crossed Santa Rosa's West Third Street in a crosswalk nearly six weeks ago, returned earlier this week to the scene of the collision.

They didn't go alone. Smiley and Ledger-Leydecker ventured across busy West Third Wednesday with more than a dozen other blind people and their advocates.

The occasion was a walkabout, an opportunity for blind and sighted proponents of crosswalk safety to examine conditions where the couple was struck on March 15. The group sought also to remind motorists to be cautious and watchful before ever driving through a crosswalk.

Pedestrian Safety Walk In Santa Rosa

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Smiley waved his arms above his head as his girlfriend, assisted by a seeing-eye dog, pushed his wheelchair across West Third at Brockhurst Drive — the same crosswalk in which they were hit.

The collision badly hurt Smiley. Among his injuries were serious fractures to his right leg. "I can't bear weight on it for another six weeks or so," he said.

He said he'd had near-misses in crosswalks before and he hopes that all of Sonoma County's recent crosswalk accidents and tragedies will cause drivers to be more vigilant before crossing the painted lines.

"Everybody's in such a hurry," Smiley said.

He serves on the boards of both the Earle Baum Center of the Blind and the Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Council of the Blind. Both groups were represented in the walkabout on West Third.

— Chris Smith


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