Last night more than a hundred people came out to the Kentland Volunteer Firehouse in Prince George's County to remember Wayne Cuffy Jr. and to advocate for better pedestrian safety along the stretch of Landover Road where the teen was killed last week.
The 15-year-old was hit by a Ford Explorer on Tuesday night as he and some friends were trying to cross the highway to get to McDonald's. Cuffy had been coming from the home of family friend Theresa Dudley.
"For the volume of pedestrian traffic, it's just dangerous," Dudley says of the intersection at Landover and Dodge Park Roads. "How many people have to get killed before they do something?"
Dudley's back door looks out on Landover Road. She says five people have been killed in as many years along a roughly one-mile stretch between Routes 704 and 50. (We've tried to identify these victims through news searches but haven't had much luck.)
The county police department's crash unit hasn't shared their findings with Cuffy's family yet, according to Dudley. But the circumstances of the crash have already started a conversation among the transportation-and-development set. The Post's Ashley Halsey wrote a story on the uptick in pedestrian crashes during the first half of last year and -- using the Cuffy case as his lead -- laid much of the blame for such deaths on the pedestrians themselves:
"It is the kind of risk teenagers take: darting across six lanes of traffic, paying no mind to the flashing sign warning pedestrians to await the green light. Wayne Cuffy and his buddies bolted across Landover Road on their way to the mall Tuesday night, a mistake that cost the 15-year-old his life when he stepped in front of a Ford Expedition at Dodge Park Road."
Saying Halsey's piece was "dripping with accusations against Cuffy," Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert pointed out that if Cuffy's signal was a blinking red hand then the driver who struck him would have still had a red light.
For Dudley, the particulars of the crossing signal are beside the point. "They were 15-year-olds running across the street to get to the McDonald's. It was dark, I don't think the guy saw him, and he hit him.... If the guy is going the speed limit and it's lit, he doesn't hit him. But the lights are so dim."
There's a busy bus stop at that intersection, and residents from the south side of Landover Road frequently cross the highway there to get to the fast-food restaurants and shopping center. Dudley says there are sidewalks running along the highway and jaywalking is common. When the county made traffic improvements in the area, she lobbied unsuccessfully for fences to be installed to discourage it.
State Del. Jolene Ivey, local police officials, and members of the state highway administration attended last night's vigil for Cuffy. Dudley says there are two things she wants out of them: better speed enforcement and more street lighting along that stretch.
"I'm not going to bury another kid," she says.