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Jogger's Death Prompts Call for Safety Awareness

NORWALK, Conn. – Recreational athletes in Norwalk are saddened but not surprised by the death of a jogger Saturday on New Canaan Avenue.

Kenneth Dorsey, 44, of Norwalk was fatally injured by an SUV on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in the area of 230 New Canaan Ave. The driver involved was a 16-year-old New Canaan girl. Dorsey was pronounced dead within a few hours at Norwalk Hospital. Charges have not been filed because the investigation is continuing.

Dorsey is the third pedestrian to be killed by a vehicle in 2012 in Norwalk.

A police spokesman said Sunday he believes Dorsey was running with his back to traffic. Runners are supposed to run facing traffic to watch for oncoming vehicles.

“Runners have to give themselves every possible advantage,’’ said Don Capone, president of the Norwalk-based Lightfoot Running Club and a runner in the city for more than 30 years. “By all means, stay off of high-traffic roads. There are so many distractions inside the vehicles themselves, between the TVs and the phone. You have to stack the odds in your favor.”

David Marcus, a member of the group Livable Norwalk, has been a proponent of more bike paths and sidewalks to make streets safer for recreational pursuits. “We have to make safe spaces,’’ said Marcus, who has been a Norwalk resident for eight years and is a frequent cyclist. “Then we have to think about the roads. It doesn’t make sense to have roads that have traffic going 45 mph in front of houses.”

Runners can take measures to improve safety, Capone says. The most obvious is not to wear headphones, which have become increasingly popular. No reports indicate that Dorsey was wearing headphones.

“We don’t allow them in our races, but people still try to sneak them in,’’ said Capone, who has directed races in Norwalk since 2003 without incident. “You yell at people, and they don’t even hear you. It’s insane. Personally, I don’t want that junk in my ear when I’m out for a run. I think the advent of headphones has made it much more dangerous for runners. They don’t think getting hit will happen to them.”

Runners and cyclists should also do their best to avoid high-traffic roads. New Canaan Avenue is a particularly troubling spot because it is narrow and well-traveled. “Tip one is assume all cars are trying to kill you,’’ Marcus said when asked about his top cycling safety tips. “The second tip is see No. 1. You can’t assume cars are paying attention. Stay very visible. They don’t expect you to be out there.”

Marcus, however, believes safety has increased for recreational athletes over the years. “It’s baby steps, but it is better,’’ he said. “There’s still a long way to go. Every time there’s a tragedy like this it propels a call to action. A good place to start is by contacting the Department of Transportation and asking for more sidewalks.”

Capone believes there will be immediate fallout at the club's Mother's Day 10K in May. "I think everyone will be much more aware,'' the veteran race director said. "The law enforcement will be even more strict with 450 runners on the road."

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