After child’s death, parents lobby for sidewalks along busy highway

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, April 16, 2015

INGALLS, Ind. — Bright orange paint mars the asphalt on Indiana 13 where a teenager was killed while walking home with three of his friends.

Jason Resler was afraid someone would get hurt walking along the busy highway in front of his subdivision because there are no sidewalks, but he never imagined it would be his child. 

Pierce Resler, 14, was struck by a 19-year-old neighbor and friend as he walked home from a nearby gas station Tuesday evening. The Pendleton Heights Middle School seventh-grader died about six hours later at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, according to the Marion County, Indiana Coroner’s office.

“We have been scared for years something like this would happen,” said Jason Resler. “The bad thing is Pierce was very aware of it. He was conscious of it, yet, still. It happened.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents have been in a largely slow but steady decline for much of the past 20 years, with a slight increase from 2009 to 2012. However, there were still 4,743 pedestrian deaths in 2012, the latest year available for NHTSA data, with “failure to yield right of way” listed as the most common contributing factor.

Pedestrian traffic deaths by year, according to the NHTSA

At the time of the accident, Pierce Resler, 14, was carrying a basketball in one hand and a soft drink from a Ricker’s convenience store in the other, police say. The accident was reported to the Madison County, Indiana Sheriff’s Department at 5:41 p.m. and remains under investigation, according to Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger.

Jason Resler, the boy’s father, said preliminary police reports indicated one wheel on the silver Cougar driven by Zach Moran locked up when Moran hit his brakes, causing the car to skid into his son.

Moran and Pierce Resler often played football together in their front yards.

“He was on the side of the road and I don’t know exactly what happened or how it started, but the driver saw him, he was concerned about there being an accident possibly and locked up his brakes,” Jason Resler said.

On Wednesday, the Reslers openly grieved over the death of their son.

“This is just so unreal, especially for all the kids,” said Amanda Resler, Pierce’s stepmother. “This has been horrific and I don’t understand why this happened.”

Breaking down in tears, Amanda Resler struggled to recount the events leading up to her stepson’s death.

“He was always smiling – he never met a stranger — ever,” Amanda Resler said. “He was just an all-around good kid.”

Friends and neighbors of the Resler family have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for medical and funeral expenses for Pierce. The Reslers hope enough money can be raised so they can pay to build sidewalks along Indiana 13.

Nathan Riggs, public information director for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the boy’s death will be taken into future consideration of safety along the state road.

“We are aware of the crash that took place yesterday, but from a traffic safety perspective, when we consider if an area is in need of improvement, we don’t instinctively react to terrible situations like these,” he said.

Riggs said that, prior to the accident, INDOT planned to reduce traffic speeds from 55 miles an hour to 45 miles an hour on the north side of Interstate 69. Resler was struck on the south side of the interstate.

Traffic analysis is also being completed to determine if there will be other changes including a reconstruction of the interchange. Traffic lights are also planned at each of the exit ramps from I-69 to Ind. 13, he said.

Riggs said typically the state does not build or maintain sidewalks — that falls to local governments or property owners.

“I don’t know how much money will be raised or how much it would even cost to make a sidewalk, but from us, from the city, the county, I don’t know, but I know my son would loved to have had his death do something good,” said Jason Resler.