Austin police arrested a teenager accused of fleeing a hit-and-run crash involving a man in a motorized wheelchair, leaving the man with life-threatening injuries in North Austin earlier this month.
Shortly before 10 a.m. Sept. 3, emergency responders arrived to a parking lot at 9200 N. Lamar Blvd. to find a man with an ambulatory disability on the ground after being struck multiple times with a vehicle.
The man, Rogelio De Luna, was taken by ambulance to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
On Sept. 9, Austin police announced Pablo Avila-Banagas, 17, had been arrested and charged with failure to stop and render aid and injury to a disabled person, third and second-degree felonies respectively, as well as with two misdemeanors in relation to the crash.
Caught on video surveillance footage, De Luna, who was riding his motorized wheelchair, is seen moving through a parking lot when he puts his hand up signaling for a vehicle to slow down.
The vehicle, a white Chevrolet pickup that police say Avila-Banagas was driving, is then seen avoiding a speed bump and instead driving toward De Luna, before running him over several times, hitting a curb and leaving the parking lot with the victim’s wheelchair lodged in the pickup’s undercarriage.
While the pickup is leaving the lot, footage shows a fire truck driving on North Lamar Boulevard make a U-turn and pull into the lot where De Luna was lying on the ground.
Authorities said De Luna has been released from the hospital and was recovering from his injuries. The crash remains 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 fatal crashes involving pedestrians over the years.
According to Austin’s Vision Zero crash data tracker, two pedestrian deaths have occurred since April along the same stretch of road, with several other accidents causing severe injury and death dating back to 2018.
The Vision Zero program via the Austin Transportation Department collects police crash data and uses the information to identify areas that need traffic flow improvements for vehicles and pedestrians alike.
From that data, a list of 13 “high injury roadways” were identified for development and additions of flashing signage, repainted crosswalks, adjusted bus stop locations and better sidewalks. Two stretches of North Lamar, from Koenig Lane to U.S. 183 and from Braker Lane to U.S. 183, in the area of the most recent crash, are included on the list.
Similarly, the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan is a guiding document for road improvements and priorities for the city’s streets over the next 20 years. As part of the plan, segments of each road that will need improvements are listed on the plan’s “street network table.”
North Lamar Boulevard has 109 segments in need of reconfiguration, which is much higher than any other main, notable thoroughfare in the city.
With those improvements, accessibility and ease of mobility for those with ambulatory disabilities will be a priority, as one of the program’s goals is to reach 100% accessibility throughout the city’s sidewalks.
In Austin, the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities plays a large role in ensuring accessibility and inclusion of the disabled community throughout the city’s transportation, infrastructure, services and government networks.
In March, the City Government Advisory Board was told of a resident’s concern about transportation challenges in the Georgian Acres neighborhood in North Austin, which is bordered to the west by the North Lamar Boulevard area where De Luna was struck and to the east by Interstate 35.
The committee has not addressed the request for possible grant funding to help mobility in the area since it was put on the agenda earlier this year.
For the whole of Austin, crashes resulting in injury and death are slightly up for the year. So far in 2022, there have been 10 more fatalities and 15 more serious injuries than the five-year average for the period.
While August resulted in two less fatal crashes and 10 fewer serious injury crashes involving pedestrians than the five-year monthly average, there have been 25 pedestrian fatalities along with 55 serious injuries resulting from crashes so far this year, according to Vision Zero data.