Drivers relive fatal moment — Pedestrian deaths leave lingering effects

This story was published on page A1 of The Advocate on March 6, 2012. 

Photo by Libby Isenhower, The Advocate — The Rev. James Cowell says his church congregation has helped him heal since unintentionally killing a man three weeks ago.

The Rev. James Cowell, of Walker, ran over and killed a man with his truck three weeks ago.

While police said the shirtless man dove in front of Cowell’s truck at the last second, thus making the accident unavoidable, Cowell, 46, says he will be haunted by that fateful moment — the eye contact, the screeching brakes, the sight of the dead man’s body under his truck — for the rest of his life.

“The fact of the matter is I basically killed that man,” Cowell said, a week after the Feb. 9 accident. “I can’t describe how it feels other than complete shock and disbelief.”

It is a scenario that plays out twice almost every week in Louisiana: a sober driver usually traveling down a dark highway who doesn’t see the pedestrian until the last second before impact, if at all.

Of the 272 drivers who struck and killed a pedestrian in Louisiana since Jan. 1, 2009, 233 were not issued a citation, according to data compiled by Dr. Helmut Schneider, director of LSU Highway Safety Research Group.

Last year, at least 74 drivers were not at fault in the deaths of the pedestrians they struck with their vehicles, according to Schneider’s data. Read more of this post