Fatal crashes down slightly on local roads in 2012, authorities report

Dania Maxwell/Staff 
 John Wallace poses for a portrait in front of a collage of photographs made for the memorial service for his wife, Robin. 'i never gave her a goodbye kiss,' John said. Robin was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day in Naples. The identity of the driver who hit her is still unknown. Robin was 48. A memorial service will be Saturday, October 6 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Naples Funeral Home.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL, NAPLES DAILY NEWS // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff John Wallace poses for a portrait in front of a collage of photographs made for the memorial service for his wife, Robin. "i never gave her a goodbye kiss," John said. Robin was killed Saturday while riding her bike in the middle of the day in Naples. The identity of the driver who hit her is still unknown. Robin was 48. A memorial service will be Saturday, October 6 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Naples Funeral Home.

Three months after Robin Wallace was hit and killed while riding her bicycle near her East Naples home, her husband waits for authorities to make an arrest.

"Everything's moving ahead, and I can't say much more than that," John Wallace said. "I'm just going to have to take this one day at a time and let my people do what they've got to do."

Robin Wallace, 48, had already died when Florida Highway Patrol troopers found her on Estey Avenue near Embassy Lane on Sept. 29. The driver who hit her had fled the scene.

John Wallace still visits a small memorial left for his wife at the scene of the crash.

"There's no one that can stop me from doing that," he said.

Robin Wallace was one of 35 people killed this year on Collier County roads, according to data from the Florida Highway Patrol and the Collier County Sheriff's Office. The number was on par with last year's death toll of 36, meaning crashes in the county did not significantly increase or decrease.

Although bicycle crashes rose 22.5 percent this year in Collier, there were the same number of crashes involving pedestrian, 24. Crashes that killed pedestrians decreased from 5 to 3 since last year.

"We believe our education efforts are paying off," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said. "Pedestrians are heeding our safety message of being vigilant in order to avoid becoming a traffic statistic, and motorists are more cognizant of pedestrians."

Distractions from cellphones continue to be a problem for local authorities, and it's not just the drivers who are at fault.

"Texting not only continues to be a safety issue while driving, but now also is an issue while walking in parking lots, as pedestrians are not paying attention to where they are going," said Tiffany Sherry, a spokeswoman for the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Comprehensive numbers were not available from authorities in Lee County, but fatal crashes investigated by the FHP in Lee County declined by about 23 percent. In 2012, FHP was the lead investigative agency on 32 fatal crashes, compared to 41 in 2011. The numbers are not directly comparable to Collier County because they do not include crashes worked by the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Fort Myers and Cape Coral police departments.

Lt. Greg Bueno, a spokesman for the FHP, said one roadway danger that isn't often publicized is vehicles that aren't properly maintained.

"We encourage motorists to inspect their vehicles, especially tires because there are quite a few crashes that involve old, worn, underinflated tires," Bueno said.

Tires were at fault in a crash that killed a 30-year-old Cape Coral woman in March, according to the FHP. Troopers said Laura Ford died at an area hospital after her tire blew out on Interstate 75 near Daniels Parkway, causing her pickup to hit a semi and overturn.

Tire maintenance "doesn't get as much attention as it should," Bueno said. "If someone blows out a tire on the interstate, that's never a good thing."

Interstate 75 remained a deadly roadway, with at least five fatal crashes occurring on the highway this year in Collier County. Deputies said they were stepping up enforcement on other roadways that have historically been dangerous for drivers, particularly near the intersection of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads.

In 2011, six people died on the stretch of Pine Ridge Road between Interstate 75 and Goodlette-Frank Road, Batten said. In 2012, no traffic deaths occurred on Pine Ridge.

"The Sheriff's Office designated this area as a high traffic-enforcement corridor and put proactive measures into place," Batten said. "Those efforts included education demonstrations in schools, increased law enforcement presence and aggressive traffic enforcement."

But traffic deaths can occur even in quiet neighborhoods, on tree-covered streets like the stretch of Estey Avenue where Robin Wallace was on a bike ride.

"We do work quite a few crashes on state and local roadways, and some of the crashes of serious nature or fatalities include violation of right-of-ways against pedestrians and bicyclists," Bueno said. "One of the important things in addition to limiting distractions inside the vehicle is to be more aware of your surroundings and the pedestrians and bicyclists that are in close proximity."

Anyone with knowledge of the crash that killed Wallace or who might have seen her between 11 a.m. and 11:26 a.m. on Sept. 29 is asked to call Cpl. John Benton with the FHP at 239-344-1730. Wallace was riding a green mountain bike wearing a blue striped shirt and gray shorts.

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