A car on the curb at Arsenal and Grand in September 2021.
Careless drivers have long been a concern on South Grand Boulevard. But a pedestrian death that occurred Friday night at South Grand and Juniata Street has people who live and work near the popular dining and nightlife area calling louder than ever for something to change.
Danni Eickenhorst, co-owner of Steve’s Hot Dogs and Burgers on South Grand, was at a community movie night at Ritz Park, between Juniata and Hartford streets, when the event was interrupted by tragedy.
“We were just getting settled in with the neighbors to watch the movie when we heard a loud thud. It was pretty evident to me the car hit something that wasn't another car,” Eickenhorst says.
The thud was followed by screams. Eickenhorst and others ran toward Juniata. A driver had run a red light, striking and killing someone who was crossing South Grand.
The victim’s name has not been released, and police are still searching for the SUV that ran the light.
After EMS arrived, Eickenhorst says that those who'd gathered began sharing their own stories of being hit by cars on South Grand. A bystander said that he’d been hit by a driver speeding through the same light as the driver who had caused Friday's fatality. An employee of the King and I Thai restaurant said that he too had been a victim of a hit run.
“There’s a lot of crazy drivers on Grand and it’s not safe for cyclists,” says Dwaine Williams, who works at Hot Box Cookies on Grand and bikes to work. “People cut me off, people blow through lights. The whole nine yards.”
At his weekly press briefing yesterday, Dan Isom, director of the Department of Public Safety, addressed Friday's fatal accident saying that reckless driving through the city is an issue that is “at the top of our list.”
"Our strategy has been to look at statistics, look at our high accident locations, and put our enforcement efforts there, around speeding, reckless driving, running stop signs," Isom said.
He acknowledged that things can calm down in one area only to flair up elsewhere.
South Grand as well as its two adjacent neighborhoods have seen 370 accidents in the past six months, according to KSDK
In the same piece, The Gin Room owner and president of the South Grand Community Improvement District, Natasha Bahrami, said that, "If there are no consequences to irresponsible driving, there's nothing to stop them from doing it again."
Eickenhorst tells the RFT
that the community improvement district has spent $70,000 repairing property damaged by vehicles in the past ten years. She added that 9 out of 10 drivers who cause an accident on South Grand don’t have insurance.
Eickenhorst says that engineering and design measures that make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians are always helpful. But the real solution lies in a city or region-wide change in drivers’ attitudes.
“The traffic law education piece in Missouri is completely missing,” she says, adding that young drivers in particular need to, “understand the awesome power of the machinery that they're behind, and what it can do to other people.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the South Grand Community Improvement District spent $70,000 repairing property damaged by vehicles in the past year. That amount was spent in the past ten years. We regret the error.