NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – By all accounts, if you ask Betsy Williams, she has lived life to the fullest, even when things seemed difficult.
As a member of the Partnership 2030 Team for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, she was instrumental in the progression of 2nd Avenue after the Christmas Day Bomb went off. This is why it was no surprise to some when she became the 2022 recipient of the Spirit of the District Award.
However, her life hasn’t just been about the awards. Four years ago, Williams was diagnosed with head and neck cancer and is in remission. The Christmas Day Bomb destroyed her home and business on 2nd Avenue North.
Then on Oct. 25, a challenge she never saw coming came out of nowhere.
“I casually stepped into the next lane and got walloped by the next car,” Williams remembered. Williams was walking from her home, near the Sounds Stadium, to the Renaissance Hotel for a Nashville Chamber of Commerce meeting. She crossed James Robertson Parkway at 7th Avenue at 6:25 in the morning.
It was a normal walk she usually takes, at the pedestrian crosswalk. As she walked, the first car stopped to let her cross, but the second car struck her.
Since then, Williams has been in the hospital with doctors calling her injuries life-threatening.
“They told my wife Kim, three different times, they didn’t know if I was going to make it, and that if I did, that I would very likely have brain damage. I will probably not get use of my left arm again, not have walking ability. So, I consider myself to be extremely fortunate,” Williams said.
Williams suffered injuries to her brain, spine and multiple fractures throughout her body. Her wife called her recovery, “nothing short of a miracle.”
However, this isn’t the first time she has been hit by a vehicle. Four years ago, she explained how a usual walk near downtown, resulted in a car side-swiping her. Although she wasn’t seriously injured, she is hoping by sharing her experience, something will change.
“Both of these were designated areas, that was designated for pedestrians and if pedestrians aren’t safe in these areas then we can’t expect to be safe anywhere,” said Williams.
Reports of pedestrians being hit, killed and injured, happen across Nashville. On Wednesday, Metro police responded to a pedestrian struck and killed at the intersection of Lebanon Pike at Bonnabrooke Drive. The pedestrian has been identified as 43-year-old Derick Johnson. According to police, Johnson was crossing when he was hit by a Honda CRV and knocked to the ground, where he was then struck by two other vehicles.
“With it becoming darker and darker, especially in the winter month, we’re seeing an increase in pedestrian deaths and fatalities,” said Kathy Carrillo, the Education & Engagement Manager for Walk Bike Nashville.
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Most of these crashes are happening in places that have no pedestrian sidewalks or designated crossings.
“It’s so important and imperative for our city and our city leaders to acknowledge that this is a public health issue. We need to make arrangements, we need to make public education now in order to address what’s happening because if we don’t, we are just going to continue to see this uptick year after year,” explained Carillo.
News 2 reached out to city leaders with Vision Zero. The plan was introduced by Mayor John Cooper earlier this year, in an effort to end all traffic-related deaths and injuries. The “Action Plan” showed high target areas, including 67 intersections, most of them near downtown.
“As the population downtown has increased, and of course the traffic, and of course, the traffic has increased. Then we need to have traffic calming control measures,” said Williams.
In the Action Plan, the city details the most unsafe streets as Nolensville Pike, Charlotte Avenue, Murfreesboro Pike and West Trinity Lane. While the city calls Vision Zero a “challenging goal” — one that residents like Williams are taking seriously.
“When I get back in action, the better look out,” said Williams. “I’m on a mission about this.”
Since the crash, Williams has been focused on getting better. A GoFundMe was created in her honor, to help with ongoing medical costs.