Arlington mother who lost her in horrific pedestrian crash becomes advocate for pedestrian safety

Helen Harris was pushing her daughter in a stroller when she was run over by a dump truck on Dec. 12, 2018. Her daughter was not injured in the crash, but Harris suffered serious injuries and underwent a leg amputation, and now wears a prosthetic leg.

Harris is involved with Street Smart, a public education and enforcement program across the D.C. area designed to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths. She is participating in the organization’s campaign by peaking at events and taking part in media interviews to encourage drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to share the road, slow down, obey traffic laws and remain alert.

Street Smart is launching its fall campaign for pedestrian safety Monday ahead of National Pedestrian Safety Month which begins in October.

According to Street Smart, approximately 94 pedestrians and five bicyclists were killed in traffic crashes last year on D.C. streets. Despite the reduction in vehicle traffic due to COVID-19, data from 2020 indicates the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in traffic incidents has remained steady across the region – accounting for almost one-third (30 percent) of all traffic fatalities.

Driver and pedestrian safety tips

The Street Smart campaign released the following safety tips for drivers and pedestrians:

Tips for drivers

  • If you’re driving slow down and obey the speed limit.
  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • Be careful when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • When turning, yield to people walking and biking.
  • Look for bicyclists before opening your door.
  • Allow at least 3 feet when passing bikes.
  • Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving.

Tips for pedestrians

  • If you’re walking, cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they’re available.
  • Use the push buttons.
  • Wait for the walk signal to cross the street.
  • Watch for turning vehicles.
  • Before crossing, look left, right, and left again.
  • Be visible. Wear something light or reflective after dark.
  • Watch out for blind spots around trucks and buses.
  • Avoid using your cell phone while you’re crossing the street.
  • On an off-street trail, obey all posted signage and approach intersections with caution.