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March Madness Mayhem Turns Tragic

UPDATE 3/26: Jason Ray passed away this morning. Our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and UNC Nation. Also, our thoughts are with the driver of that struck Jason, as I’m sure this is difficult for him as well. Sally has provided an update on the area’s walkability in the comments of this article.

Original Post: This is one of my favorite times of the year – March Madness – where hundreds of US college basketball teams compete for championships. March is also a very busy time of the year in terms of my own work volume, and so I’ve been trying to squeeze in as much basketball viewing as I can. It’s especially difficult for me this watch this year, as I would love to be outside playing basketball in our beautiful 80 degree weather this month, but of course, I’m still recovering from my broken ankle. I’m also still trying to recover from the absolute collapse of my Illini in the final minutes of the game versus Virginia Tech.

Last night I caught the second half of the North Carolina/USC game. They announced that the student that wears the North Carolina mascot uniform, Jason Ray, was hit by an SUV while walking along the shoulder of a state highway in Fort Lee, New Jersey. He is in critical condition. He was walking back to his hotel after purchasing some food at a local convenience store.

It’s hard for me to speculate exactly what happened in this situation since I’m not familiar with Fort Lee. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the situation was probably hostile for pedestrians, and that played a major factor in this collision. Speaking from my own experiences, I’ve faced this situation many times. I’m typically pretty aggressive when it comes to walking in non-pedestrian friendly environments. I know I should be more careful, but I think it’s ridiculous to expect visitors to your community to have to drive everywhere. And that’s exactly what happens in most communities because hotels are generally located in non-walkable neighborhoods, often near freeway interchanges.

Despite my strong dislike of the North Carolina basketball team, I certainly hope Jason Ray recovers quickly from this incident and can carry on his normal life activities as he did before. As UNC coach Roy Williams said, “it sort of makes everything else pale in comparison to that — a youngster to have something like that happen.” I agree. Hopefully the New Jersey DOT will make it a priority to make the facilities safer for all travel modes in this corridor and an incident like this will not happen again.

If anyone is familiar with this road, we would certainly appreciate your comments on this issue.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • sally March 25, 2007, 9:08 pm


    So sorry to hear about student’s accident. I live about 25 miles from Rt. 4 and can tell you it is not a road to walk on since it is very busy, lots of traffic, cars moving fast, other highways and the Turnpike nearby making it very congested.

    Cars pull into and out of driveways of businesses
    and would not be expecting to meet pedestrians. Folks from NJ almost never walk on these roads because of the danger.
    I’m sure he has the prayers of many who read about this accident. There are great hospitals in this part of NJ so hopefully he will get excellent attention.

  • Eric Fredericks March 25, 2007, 9:49 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Thank you for providing some background on the area. Maybe this incident will bring some attention to the need for better facilities for non-motorized travel in that area.

    Unfortunately, the situation is grave for Jason: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/ncaatourney07/news/story?id=2812224
    I know everyone is rallying for Jason to recover along with us. I hope this inspires more people to be extra careful while driving.

  • Sally March 27, 2007, 10:26 pm

    I’m am so sorry to hear of Mr. Jason Ray’s passing. From the NJ/NY area newspapers’ reports, Mr. Ray was a wonderful, talented and gifted young man with a great life ahead of him.

    Please accept my condolences and my prayers go out to his family and friends.

    Hopefully, NJ’s Dept. of Transportation will look into ways of making this very heavily trafficked area safer for pedestrians.

    I pity that poor driver too; hope this causes we NJ drivers to be extra vigilant too.

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