POSTED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 3:53pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 10:09am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Sarah Garza never imagined she would spend the first day of 2013 in a hospital. But then again she never could have anticipated being hit by a car and left for dead.
“They didn’t stop. I didn’t even see a car,” she said. “I was crossing the overpass and I didn’t hear a car or breaks. The next thing I knew I was looking at the sky.
“I feel very, very lucky to be alive,” she added. “By the way my bike looks and the way I got hit, I should have died. It bothers me thinking about it now. I miraculously came out of that and survived.”
Garaz was riding her bike down Perkins Road on Jan. 1 shortly before 4:00 a.m. It was a quick ride to her house and because it was so early in the morning, there were few cars on the roadway.
She felt safe.
“I normally ride my bike everywhere, so it wasn’t a big deal,” she said. “I decided to ride my bike on the bridge rather than walking it on the side. I had never done that before. I thought it would be okay because there were no cars on the road. When I got to the top of the bridge, I thought to myself, ‘I made it.’”
But she never made it to the bottom.
“After I was hit I was in the middle of the road,” she recalled. “A car was driving by from the other direction. It passed slowly, then turned around. Two people got out and helped pull me from the road.
Garza explained that her memory is fuzzy and the police report did not list the names of the individuals who stopped to render aid.
“I remember a girl with curly hair,” she described. “I remember seeing the pool of blood on the road that they pulled me from. That was when I started freaking out. I kept repeating, ‘Please don’t let me die. I don’t want to die.’
“The last thing I remember was hearing, ‘She’s going into shock.’”
Garza was rushed to a local hospital. Fortunately, she will heal, but not without a painful recovery.
“I haven’t been able to walk until a few days ago,” she explained. “I have road rash and bruises everywhere. I had to get three staples in my head.”
Pedestrian involved crashes typically go unreported to the media unless it involves a fatality. However, it’s an occurrence that’s far too common.
“I didn’t realize how lucky I am to be alive,” she said. “Everyone I know who bikes has been hit. My boyfriend has been hit twice in the past two years. The week before I got hit we were joking that I was next because I am the only one who hasn’t been. I knew it was very possible, so that’s why I have blinking lights on my bike and I am generally very safe.”
Baton Rouge EMS says it responds to roughly 6 to 8 pedestrian involved crashes a month. The injuries range from very minor to serious or even fatal.
“Pedestrian injuries from a crash with a vehicle range from broken fingers to serious head injuries,” Mike Chutz, Baton Rouge EMS, said. “Many are very critical. A lot require rehabilitation.”
Cyclists tend to sustain injuries far worse than pedestrians on foot.
“Almost all of the cyclists injured occur in the roadway and they have anything from broken legs, arms, or ribs,” Chutz noted. “If you have a broken rib, that can take up to six months to heal.”
Garza feels lucky that she survived the incident and will make a full recovery. However, it’s a recovery that’s coming at a high price.
“My boss told me to take as much time off as I need, but the bills are starting to pile up,” she said. “Thankfully, my landlord is being very nice, but I can’t afford to not work much longer.”
In fact, the only reason Garza was on the road that night was because of her part-time job.
“I only worked on New Year’s eve so that I could make rent money,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t want to work, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
But her lack of funds and pain is compounded by the fact that the person responsible has not yet been apprehended.
“I want to find this person,” she said. “I want to know who caused so much trouble in my life. My entire life has been flipped around. I would love to find the person who did it.”
Although Garza never saw the vehicle that hit her, the rear view mirror was left behind at the scene.
“It’s hard not to be bitter about it,” she admitted. “I’m not angry, but I don’t think I’ve had enough to be angry.”
Garza admitted that the incident will make it very difficult for her to feel safe on a bike again.
“I’d like to say that we need more bike lanes, but I don’t think that’s even going to make a difference,” she said when asked what she believes needs to be done to reduce the number of crashes. “I think what I’m drawing from this is that you need to think twice about biking at night. I wish I could say that having lights would help, but I had lights on my bike. I would say wear helmets, but no one wears helmets. I should have been wearing a helmet.”
If you know anything about this incident or the person responsible call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-STOP (7867). You can also text your tip to CRIMES (274637). Include CS225 at the beginning of your message.
Below is a list of tips for pedestrians and drivers that will help reduce the number of crashes.
Tips for Drivers
- You can encounter pedestrians anytime and anywhere – even in places where they are not supposed to be found.
- Pedestrians can be very hard to see – especially in bad weather or at night. You must keep a lookout and slow down if you can’t see clearly.
- When entering a crosswalk area, drive slowly and be prepared to stop.
- Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked. When you stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
- Do not overtake and pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.
- When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a “gap” in traffic. Beware that while you are watching for that “gap,” pedestrians may have moved into your intended path.
- Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.
Tips for Pedestrians
- Be predictable. Stay off freeways and restricted zones. Use crosswalks where provided. Cross or enter streets where it is legal to do so.
- When no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing road traffic.
- Make it easy for drivers to see you – dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. It might be wise to carry a flashlight in very dark areas.
- Be wary. Most drivers are nice people, but don’t count on them paying attention. Watch out – make eye contact to be sure they see you.
- Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just like they do a person’s ability to drive.
Use extra caution when crossing multiple-lane, higher speed streets.