Vehicle strikes, injures woman

Safety of Durham street under review

Staff WriterAugust 12, 2006 

— A Duke University student was hit and run over by a large sport utility vehicle around lunchtime Friday outside a busy shopping center on Broad Street.

The woman is expected to survive, but the incident is a symptom of unsafe sidewalks and walkways on Broad Street that some residents have repeatedly appealed to the city to improve, said resident John Schelp.

The victim, identified as Duke graduate student Erin Danielle Kuhns, was crossing the 600 block of Broad Street at 12:41 p.m. when she was hit by a 2000 Cadillac Escalade, said Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

The SUV, driven by Louis Devone, 64, then rolled over Kuhns, leaving tire impressions on her body, police said.

Kuhns was not using the crosswalk at Broad and Perry streets, which leads many pedestrians from Duke's East Campus to the Bull Market shopping center, officials said.

It did not appear that Devone was speeding, Michael said.

The woman was taken to Duke Hospital. By 4 p.m. Friday, police said the woman was expected to survive. Officials could not provide Kuhns' age.

Concerned onlookers fretted as Kuhns was taken away by ambulance. Devone sat quietly inside his dented SUV, a handicapped parking placard hanging from the rearview mirror of the vehicle.

No charges were filed in the case.

Among the lunchtime crowd and spectators was City Council member Mike Woodard, a resident of the nearby Watts-Hillandale neighborhood and frequent customer at the shopping center, he said.

"We've got to find a solution for this crosswalk," Woodard said. "I see people speed through here all the time. I have seen pedestrians forced to stop midway through the crosswalk, and they're trapped out there."

Woodard added that as he came upon the accident and learned a woman had been struck, he called Durham's city manager to notify him of the crash and inquire about improving the crosswalk.

"We need an immediate short-term solution," Woodard said, noting the urgency with the return of Duke students this month, which will boost foot traffic again.

Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association that includes the Bull Market shopping center and businesses along Ninth Street, says several merchants have long lobbied for safer walkways in the area.

In addition to slowing traffic around the Broad Street crosswalk, Schelp says the speed limit should be lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph, and sidewalks need to be added further north.

The intersection of Markham and Broad was where Durham Academy teacher Katie McClary was hit and killed by a bus in 2004. Pedestrian crossing lights have since been installed at the traffic light there, but the intersection there and in other high-traffic parts of Broad Street still need much improvement, Schelp said.

Staff writer Samiha Khanna can be reached at 956-2468 or skhanna@newsobserver.com.

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