Woman killed crossing N.C. 54

Staff WriterDecember 13, 2008 

— A woman was killed Thursday night while crossing an expanse of N.C. 54 with large apartment complexes on each side and few crosswalks.

The fatal collision occurred at 10:30 p.m. just west of the Columbia Street bridge, according to Lt. Kevin Gunter, a police spokesman.

Gloria Espinosa Balderas, 43, of 401 N.C. 54, Apt. E13, Carrboro, is the fifth pedestrian to die this year in a college town that likes to promote itself as a place where people can leave their cars in the driveway, and walk and ride bicycles to get around.

Mayor Kevin Foy was devastated by the news. Besides the five fatalities, eight other pedestrians have been struck by cars this year.

Many of the town's main east-west and north-south corridors are at least four lanes across, and crosswalks often are spaced at greater distances than people want to walk. This means pedestrians often put themselves in vulnerable positions trying to get from one side of the street to the other.

"I jaywalk all the time to get over to Town Hall from downtown," Foy said. "This can be a sleepy little town, and everybody assumes motorists are going to be cautious. We all know as drivers there are people going too fast, people talking on cell phones, tailgating you. We know to be cautious. These people are also on the road when you're walking, and our first line of defense should be to be cautious."

About 10:30 Thursday night, seven pedestrians were crossing N.C. 54 when a 2000 Mitsubishi driven by Micah James Millis, 17, of Durham struck three of them, police said.

Two of the pedestrians received what police described as injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening. The four others safely crossed the road.

Balderas died at the scene, police said, not far from where two other pedestrians were struck and killed this year.

Valerie Hughes died in early November after being struck by a Chapel Hill Transit bus near South Columbia Street and Mason Farm Road.

Clifton Walker Steed, 62, died in late April after a Chapel Hill Transit van struck him near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Street.

Barbara "Babs" Sims, 38, a homeless woman, died in May after a truck struck her near Interstate 40 and N.C. 86.

Lisa Moran, a Scottish exchange student at UNC-Chapel Hill, died in May after a Chapel Hill Transit bus struck her at Manning Drive and South Columbia Street.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8741

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