October 22, 2013

Pedestrian-safety crusade gathers steam


PERU — A measuring tape is a good tool to teach pedestrian safety, Christol Mastic has found.

At Peru Central School recently, she had a student at each end of the tape, measuring out how long it takes for a car to stop once the driver hits the brake.

“This is with a brand-new car” and perfect road conditions, she says.

At 30 mph, it’s 38 feet. At 40 mph, it’s 68.

“They never get to 55 mph,” Mastic said, describing the students’ incredulity when they realize the stopping time could take a car all the way down a school corridor and out the door.

“If I need 68 feet to stop but see (a person) at 52 feet, I can’t stop in time,” she tells them.

Using the measuring tape offers a visual lesson, Mastic said, that she thinks sticks better.


After many months of getting the word out of about pedestrian-safety practices, she knows sharing her personal story plays an important role in persuading her audiences.

Her son, Brandon, and four teens were killed on Nov. 15, 2011, in a horrific car/pedestrian accident. 

Brandon, 17, with his girlfriend Samantha Donah, was driving his car on rural Peasleeville Road in Peru as twilight fell when it struck two pedestrians walking in the roadway.

Dat. T. Ong, 17, of Vietnam and Chu “Allen” Xiong, 18, of China were wearing dark, non-reflective clothes as they walked with their backs to traffic, police determined. 

“If you don’t want to live in my horrible world — and I pray you never will — don’t (ignore the rules of the road),” Mastic tells students.


She continues, through the Brandon Sorrell Scholarship Foundation, to talk to cross-country and track teams around the area; she has given out hundreds of florescent, safety-green T-shirts that she prays each student will wear. 

A new project this year launched as the college semester was about to start this fall, when Mastic gave out more than 200 packets with pedestrian-safety tip cards, bookmarks and pamphlets to Clinton Community College students moving into the dorms there.

Many college students come to the area from more populated areas, she noted, so they can benefit from the information. 

“They aren’t used to being out here where there aren’t lights everywhere.”

And the traffic travels faster on country roads, as well, increasing the risk, she said.


Assisting her at various events are several close friends of Brandon: Matt Labombard, Kayla Provost and Amelia Brelia. 

Mastic was thrilled, recently, to add florescent belts to her offerings.

If people would at least wear the belts — which are easy to snap around the waist — before heading out for a walk or run, their safety would be better assured, she says.

They are lettered with, the foundation website that offers a wealth of pedestrian-safety information, along with the application for the annual scholarship and details about fundraisers.


A YouTube video on the site offers visual proof that florescent, reflective clothing and gear works best to capture headlights in the dark and also includes the surprising revelation that the color white isn’t a good choice.

Called “No White at Night” and presented by 3M, it asks the viewer to count the runners showed moving toward the camera. At 1,000 feet, it seems to be three, all wearing florescent strips as they jog through the darkness; not until 250 feet do all of them, totaling seven, appear. The final four wear white shirts.

A vehicle traveling at 30 mph, the video says, can cover more than 500 feet before the driver can properly maneuver it to avoid an obstacle.


With shorter and shorter days, and the anniversary date of Brandon’s death approaching, Mastic feels increasing pressure to do her part to help prevent similar tragedies. 

“Statistics show most of the (pedestrian) deaths happen in October, November, December because of the lighting,” she said.

Daylight leaves suddenly, often catching those afoot or on bike off guard.

And it doesn’t matter if a lot of walkers and runners are on the road for an organized event, she said, “the cars still can’t stop (any faster).”

Last week, Mastic attended the Adirondack Coast Walk/Bike Symposium at Clinton Community College. The Complete Streets concept it fosters aims to make travel safer for all modes of transportation, including walking and biking.

It focused more on more populated areas, such as cities and town centers, she noticed, with emphasis on such features as crosswalks and roundabouts.

“But Clinton County is 64 percent rural,” she said, encouraging a broader focus.


Mastic invites requests from schools, organizations and those holding events to contact her about making presentations. She welcomes sponsors to help pay for the T-shirts and belts, even just one or two.

T-shirts cost $10 each, and a belt is $15.

One donor has paid for enough belts for every cross-country runner at AuSable Valley Central School, Mastic said, if she gets the green light to go there.

Monday, she brought her message to Beekmantown Central School.

Walk or run against traffic; bike with it, she says.

Stop and look left, right and left again before entering a roadway.

If you must be out at dusk or in darkness, make sure you are as visible as possible, with florescent shirts, belts or other gear; red flashing lights catch the eye of motorists, too.

Mastic wishes law enforcement would at least stop and tell those using unsafe pedestrian/bike habits what the law says.

She wouldn’t object to police ticketing them, even if the judge tosses it out.

“It’s a deterrent,” she said. “If we can just get people to pay attention ...”

Email Suzanne Moore



The annual Brandon Sorrell Memorial Scholarship Foundation Benefit Dinner raises money both for scholarships given out each year in the Peru teen's name and for the pedestrian-safety project his mother, Christol Mastic, is so committed to.

This year, set for 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, it takes place at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 309 in Peru.

That location is perfect, Mastic said, as it allows the dinner to support veterans, too. And, as in the past, diners are invited to bring along a nonperishable item for the food shelf in Peru.

The dinner, spaghetti, salad, Texas Roadhouse rolls, and dessert, is $6 adults, $4 ages 5 through 10, and free for age 4 and younger. An auction offers items donated by businesses throughout the area, including Titus Mountain lift passes, a Cabot Cheese basket, a gift-card wreath and Lotto Christmas tree.

Corporate sponsors are Lake Placid Oral Surgery, CeraGraphics, Mountain Brook Lodge, High Peaks Dental, Santa's Workshop, DJ Flash and Flat & Vertical Concrete. To learn more, ask for a safety presentation, donate to the auction or volunteer, email Mastic at

Check out the website at: