Can We Pull Together for Pedestrian Rights in Honor of Rebecca and Raelia Pennenberg?

A mother and daughter were killed during an evening stroll by an alleged drunk driver in Lawrence, Wisconsin on August 17, 2017.Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup

On that Thursday night, 44-year-old Rebecca Pennenberg and her 18-year-old daughter Raelia, were walking on French Road when David Earl Meyer crossed the center line and hit them, according to investigators. He has been charged with two counts of Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle and registered a .219 on a preliminary breath test. The legal limit in Wisconsin is .08.

Tragically, Rebecca and Raelia are the 42nd and 43rd people killed while walking by people driving in 2017. The mother and daughter are survived by their family, husband/father and sons/brothers.

“It’s just not worth it. This is a tragedy and it could’ve been prevented. It’s sad for the family and it’s sad for everyone involved. And it’s just a tragedy. It’s sad for the community,” says Lt. Dan Van Lanen, Hobart-Lawrence Police Dept.

Raelia and Rebecca Pennenberg

As the Lieutenant states, these deaths were preventable. Don’t drink and drive and look for and yield to people walking. It’s very simple.

So far, in 2017 there have been 43 people killed while walking, including these wonderful people, while in all of last year there were 47. No one else has to die on our roads. These deaths are preventable. Most often, as in this case, drivers are at fault in crashes with people walking. Of pedestrian fatalities in Wisconsin between 2011-2013 28 percent involved a driver not yielding to people walking in a crosswalk. As community members, and people who drive and walk, each of us can take action to prevent another tragedy.

Will you join us to work together to develop a culture of safety? Let’s each take opportunities to make it very clear that drunk and inattentive driving are unacceptable. We can easily raise expectations by setting the example or not allowing ourselves to go along with questionable behavior as social norms. Think about times when you may have an opportunity to influence others and how you can make the most of that. Be prepared, even practice how you will react before you are in the middle of an opportunity. We must choose to define who we are as a community.

People driving have most of the responsibility to keep people walking safe. While people walking can cause disruptions in traffic, their mistakes are likely to hurt only themselves, while the mistakes motorists make injure and kill people walking. I am sure that the driver who killed Rebecca and Raelia feels very distressed and wishes they could take back their actions that lead to the crash and tragic deaths.

When walking, people have the responsibility to not dart out into traffic. People must walk on the sidewalk when they are provided, and walk facing traffic when sidewalks are unavailable. All of these responsibilities were met by Rebecca and Realia.

Walking and biking does, however, remain a safe and healthy activity in the state of Wisconsin and more people doing both creates a safer environment for those who choose to walk and bike.

Michelle Bachaus our Share & Be Aware Ambassador in the region will be doing specialized outreach in this community. She can come to schools, universities, police stations, driver’s education classes and events for free. Visit to request an Ambassador.

As a citizen of the area you can help by understanding the laws and lead by example by following the speed limit and yielding to those attempting to cross our streets. In Wisconsin a marked or unmarked crosswalk gives pedestrians the right of way. You can also write, call or speak with your local elected officials to support pedestrian safety and/or donate to the family support fund. The widower’s employer will match the first $15,000 in donations.

Along with their family, friends, and community, we grieve for their loss and would like to share some thoughts from their friends from Facebook:
“My very good friend Rebecca Pennenberg would say “happy heart ??” Yesterday my heart broke. We miss you Becke and Raelia Rose. Our prayers to Mike, Noah and Isaiah and to their families.”

“I have been trying to think of how I can truly make sense of how I feel about the last day and how much all of my friends and coworkers and family mean to me and how much Rebecca Pennenberg (Becke) has made an impact on all our lives. She wasn’t a movie star she wasn’t an outstanding athlete she wasn’t famous what she was was a beautiful daughter a loving wife an outstanding mom and a true blue friend. I’m so saddened that she has left this world and me your friend will miss you. God bless you my sweet friend I will love you forever. Peace.”

“They say only the good die young then that must be true cause these two were some of the best most kind hearted and caring women i have ever met …my heart is broken i cant believe this is happening ???????? my thoughts and prayers go out to my cousin Mike and the boys and the rest of the family if you need anything please dont hesitate to ask i love you all so much R.I.P Rebecca Pennenberg and Raelia Rose…I’ll be seeing you ????????”

Let’s work together to prevent another mother, daughter, son or father from being killed while walking on our Wisconsin roads.  Losing more loved ones is not acceptable.

Thanks to Michelle Bachaus for co-writing this piece.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling

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