Teen faces multiple hit-and-run accident charges in North Austin

Austin police arrested a teenager accused of fleeing a hit-and-run accident involving a man in a motorized wheelchair, leaving him with life-threatening injuries in North Austin earlier this month.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on September 3, emergency responders arrived at a parking lot at 9200 N. Lamar Blvd. to find an ambulant disabled man on the ground after being repeatedly hit with a vehicle.

The older gentleman, Rogelio De Luna, was taken by ambulance to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

On Sept. 9, Austin police announced that 17-year-old Pablo Avila-Banagas had been arrested and charged with failing to stop and assisting and injuring a disabled person, respectively with crimes on the third and second degree, as well as two misdemeanors in connection with the accident.

Caught in CCTV footage, De Luna, who was driving his motorized wheelchair, is seen moving through a car park when he raises his hand to signal a vehicle to slow down.

The vehicle, a white Chevrolet pickup that police say Avila-Banagas was driving, is then seen dodging a speed bump and heading towards De Luna, before flipping him multiple times, hitting a curb and driving off the parking lot with the victim’s wheelchair housed. in the pick-up chassis.

As the van leaves the parking lot, footage shows a fire truck traveling on North Lamar Boulevard turning around and entering the parking lot where De Luna was lying on the ground.

On Wednesday, authorities said De Luna had been released from hospital and was recovering from his injuries. The accident is still under investigation.

Although the incident occurred in a parking lot, the adjacent segment of North Lamar Boulevard has seen a number of serious injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians over the years.

According to Austin’s Vision Zero crash data tracker, since April, two pedestrian fatalities have occurred along the same stretch of roadway with several other crashes causing serious injuries and fatalities dating back to 2018.

The Vision Zero program through the Austin Department of Transportation collects police crash data and uses this information to identify areas in need of improved vehicular and pedestrian flow.

From this data, a list of 13 “high injury risk roads” was identified for development and addition of flashing signage, repainted crosswalks, adjusted bus stop locations and better sidewalks. Two sections of North Lamar, from Koenig Lane to US 183 and from Braker Lane to US 183, in the area of ​​the most recent crash, are included on the list.

Similarly, Austin’s Strategic Mobility Plan is a guiding document for road improvements and priorities for city streets over the next 20 years. As part of the plan, the segments of each road that will require improvements are listed in the plan’s “road network table”.

North Lamar Boulevard has 109 segments in need of reconfiguration, which is far more than any other major and notable thoroughfare in the city.

With these improvements, accessibility and ease of movement for people with ambulatory disabilities will be a priority, as one of the goals of the program is to achieve 100% accessibility on all city sidewalks. .

In Austin, the Mayor’s Committee for the Disabled plays an important role in ensuring the accessibility and inclusion of the disability community in the city’s transportation, infrastructure, services and government networks.

In March, the city’s government advisory council was made aware of a resident’s concern about transportation issues in the Georgian Acres neighborhood in North Austin, which is bordered on the west by the North Lamar Boulevard area where De Luna was hit and Interstate 35 to the east.

The committee has not discussed the request for a possible grant to help with mobility in the region since it was put on the agenda earlier this year.

For Austin as a whole, crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities are up slightly for the year. So far in 2022, there have been 10 more deaths and 15 more serious injuries than the five-year average for the period.

While August had two fewer fatalities and 10 fewer serious pedestrian crashes than the five-year monthly average, there were 25 pedestrian fatalities and 55 serious injuries resulting from crashes up to present this year, according to data from Vision Zero.

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