SALT LAKE CITY — Brielle Frear wishes she’d heeded the little voice in her head that said “Run!” although she didn’t see anything she needed to escape.

Brielle Frear poses for a portrait at home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. Brielle and a friend were hit by a car while crossing the road in a crosswalk last summer. She is still recovering, including a recent wrist surgery. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Instead, on that bright July evening a year ago, she did exactly what she’d been taught: The teen looked both ways and stepped with a friend into a crosswalk spanning 4800 South near 1350 West in Taylorsville. She wasn’t wearing earbuds or playing with a cellphone. She wasn’t goofing off.

Brielle, now 17, and her friend were hit by a driver who later admitted being distracted by a fussy child in the backseat. The teens had walked to a nearby store for a soda and were headed back when the crash occurred. Brielle tumbled over the car hood, her head smashing into the windshield, before landing in the three-lane road.

Recently, as they discussed the crash, Brielle sat on the sofa by her mom, Angela Frear, gently picking at a cast on one arm. She’s a petite, dark-haired girl with big eyes and bigger dimples who had nothing to add to the telling of her tragedy; she couldn’t remember the accident itself or what came right after.

But she continues to live with the aftermath of being hit by a car, the lingering pain as palpable as the possibility of more surgeries in her ongoing recovery.

Brielle Frear walks her dog Echo outside of her home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. Brielle and a friend were hit by a car while crossing the road in a crosswalk last summer. She is still recovering, including a recent wrist surgery. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Brielle is among thousands of pedestrians who pay dearly each year for believing their status as a pedestrian means cars will see them and stop for them. It’s a dangerous assumption. A pedestrian’s right of way is too often the right to die or be badly hurt.

And no time of year is more dangerous for pedestrians than autumn, when crashes involving them spike, though officials are not sure why. Theories include shorter days with night falling earlier and drivers not watching for people outside the way they do in summer, though the weather is still mild.

In the United States, one pedestrian dies every 1.6 hours, and another is hurt every 7.5 minutes. It’s the equivalent of killing all Moab residents and a few of their friends each year, and injuring everyone in South Jordan: 5,376 dead and more than 70,000 injured in 2015 alone, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data. The numbers don’t include pedestrians killed in parking lots, driveways and on private property; incidents are undercounted because only a fraction of injury-causing pedestrian crashes even get reported to police.

And the trend is headed the wrong way: Over the last decade, while total traffic deaths fell 18 percent, pedestrian deaths rose 12 percent.

The driver of the car that hit Brielle stopped just past the crash scene and walked back to it. Other drivers weaved between the two girls, scattered like ragdolls on the road. Witnesses told Brielle's mom the drivers yelled at the girls to stop playing around until one astute driver blocked half the road with his car and sent his sons to stop traffic headed the other way.

Drivers don't always realize what's in their path — and even when they do, they don't always have time to react. That can be deadly for pedestrians.

Daytime distractions

Daylight crashes, like the one that injured Brielle, are nearly always caused by distraction, says Mike Anderson, a Unified Police Department traffic accident reconstruction detective who often investigates pedestrian-car collisions.

In a matchup between car and human, the pedestrian always loses. And the number of pedestrian crashes has increased steadily in Utah for several years because there are simply more people — and more active people.

National data says most pedestrian crashes occur during the daytime — perhaps because more people are out then — but three-fourths of those that are fatal occur at night. More males are hit than females, and crashes happen more often in cities than rural areas. Most fatal encounters are not at intersections, though pedestrian-vehicle collisions in general are. They're more common in fair weather, too.

Nearly half of Utah pedestrian fatalities happen between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight, says Utah Zero Fatality’s Allyse Christensen. Utah's weather can also be a factor: "Though drivers are more focused during inclement weather, rain or snow makes pedestrians even harder to see," she warns.

Warm weather, shorter winters, more people trying to reap health benefits by being outdoors and more distractions, including cellphones, all contribute to an increase in pedestrian crashes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Distraction was a factor in what happened to BaiLee DiBernardo, a 17-year-old girl from Layton. Jan. 11, 2016, BaiLee died after she was hit by two different vehicles.

The driver of the truck that first hit her was reaching for a drink that had fallen when he struck BaiLee and a friend in the crosswalk in front of Layton High School. The driver behind him swerved, but the driver of a third vehicle, reportedly chatting with a passenger, didn’t notice the initial crash. She drove over what she thought was a pile of clothing in the road.

BaiLee's mom, Kristina Morris, answers her front door wearing a shirt that says “Don’t drive stupid.” It has become her mantra as she campaigns hard against distracted driving.

The fact that paramedics were stationed right across the street from where BaiLee was hit and got there immediately comforts Morris, who says everything that could be done was.

Morris urges drivers to drop their distractions, while also warning that “as a pedestrian you need to be responsible for your own safety. Don’t assume somebody behind the wheel is being responsible. It doesn’t matter if you have the right of way if you lose your life.”

Kristina Morris and her 2-year-old daughter River Morris open the "BaiLee Book" while sitting on their couch at the Morris' home in Layton, Friday, June 2, 2017. | Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News

She's referring to laws regarding right of way. Statutes demand both drivers and pedestrians take care. In Utah, the law says cars never have the right to hit pedestrians, though pedestrians are expected to remain in a position of safety until it's safe to enter a roadway. Drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and the law commands drivers to watch for children and slow when they spot them, whether it's in a school zone or not.

So pedestrians may count on having the right of way and assume that's enough to keep them safe. It's not.

“The right of way might kill you,” Anderson says.

Morris struggles to understand what happened in BaiLee's case. BaiLee’s companion said they saw the truck, but were in the crosswalk and assumed it would stop. Morris thinks BaiLee might have miscalculated because she’d just learned to drive and may have assumed that every driver would have the same intense focus she did while driving. “When you first get behind the wheel, 100 percent of your attention is on the road," Morris says. "You are driving a deadly weapon. You need to be watching out for everything."

As she speaks, Morris’ voice gets high and reedy, and her daughter River, 3, reaches for a cuddle. Morris says she spent the first months after BaiLee died sobbing and lost, but she had to keep moving for River, whom she calls “God’s tender mercy.” She has also thrown herself into educating pedestrians and drivers.

Morris' BaiLee was funny and boisterous and adventurous, so close to her that they texted several times a day, even from school. Weekly, they compared heights, because at 5-foot-1 BaiLee was closing in on her mom and couldn’t wait to be taller.

Kristina Morris poses for a portrait with a framed photographer of her firstborn child, BaiLee DiBernardo while wearing a T-shirt that reads "Don't Drive Stupid" on the day that BaiLee would have graduated high school in the Morris' home in Layton, Friday, June 2, 2017. | Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News

The cost of distraction, says Morris, pointing at a wall covered with photos of a blonde, smiling BaiLee now forever frozen in time, is simply too high.

It’s a sentiment Angela Frear, Brielle's mom, echoes.

When the car hit her, Brielle flew out of her zipped-up high-top shoes — something that's not uncommon in pedestrian crashes, says David Ingebretsen, who specializes in collision forensics and engineering. On impact, the body of someone walking goes from 0 miles per hour up to the speed of the car almost instantly. Despite the shoe’s relatively small mass, if the binding force of the fasteners and resisting force from the friction between the sock and shoe are less than the force acting to accelerate the shoe along with the pedestrian, the foot can be pulled out of the shoe, leaving it right where it was before its owner so violently left it.

At the hospital, Brielle remained unconscious for several days. Her battered face was nearly unrecognizable. She weighed 94 pounds sopping wet, but she had swollen an extra 30 pounds, and the pressure on her brain was life-threatening. It would be some time before doctors completed cataloguing her injuries.

Angela Frear and her daughter Brielle Frear play with their dog Echo at home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. Brielle and a friend were hit by a car while crossing the road in a crosswalk last summer. She is still recovering, including a recent wrist surgery. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Nighttime impossibilities

Most fatal wrecks occur in darkness, 3-to-1 compared with daylight. Overall, 70 percent of those killed are male. Those who die tend to be a little older than those who are injured, on average age 47 compared with 37. Nearly one-fifth of pedestrians who died in 2014 were 65 and older, as were 13 percent of those injured.

About one-third of those killed are inebriated, compared with 15 percent of the drivers. Impaired pedestrian accidents are most common in California, Florida and Texas according to NHTSA, and they are a significant problem in Nevada, too.

With pedestrian crashes at night, you can pretty much forget anything you just learned about daytime crashes. They are harder to prevent — and doing so requires pedestrians to take major responsibility to keep themselves safe, says Anderson.

He points out that the number of pedestrian deaths and serious injuries in busy downtown Salt Lake City is comparable to the entire rest of Salt Lake County, though the number of pedestrians downtown is far greater. That’s because people expect to see pedestrians downtown, so pedestrians and drivers watch for each other. Drivers aren’t necessarily watching for someone on foot at 10 p.m. on a quiet West Jordan road.

Visibility compounds that problem. At night, everything changes, Anderson says, creating a huge gap between what drivers see and what they recognize.

The human eye takes some blame. Ingebretsen says humans detect velocity in their peripheral vision as long as they are passing some markers, such as trees or light posts, to help the brain calculate how fast they're going. At night, markers disappear. That also impacts depth perception, because those markers also help the brain figure depth.

“At night, little reference markers diminish and (we) can’t do that math fast enough or gather enough information," says Anderson. "Our eyes are not made for this.”

Even when drivers do see something, it doesn't guarantee they can react in time. Depending on whether the danger approaching is walking, running, coming from the front or the side and other factors, a driver's perception-response time can range from 1.5 to 2.5 seconds or longer — and that’s before hitting the brakes. “There may not be time to adequately move or stop,” says Ingebretsen.

Reacting to a child running into the street from the side requires more response time than a hazard straight ahead, he notes, whether day or night.

Even when something is directly in front of them, humans don’t detect acceleration, period. Looking straight ahead, a person can see something in the distance, but can't necessarily tell how far away it is. “We can perceive an object is growing bigger on our retina, but it has to be doing it fast enough to understand it’s growing bigger. If it’s doing it very slowly, you get onto something before you know it,” Ingebretsen says.

Seeing a pedestrian soon enough is the difference between a collision and a near miss. If a pedestrian is 299 feet away (essentially the length of a football field) when a driver reacts, a vehicle going 40 mph or higher won’t be able to stop in time. At 100 feet, a car going faster than 25 mph can’t stop in time.

But pedestrians think they can be seen at night by drivers at a much greater distance than is possible.

Unified Police Department, UDOT and the Department of Public Safety recently teamed up with a researcher from the Connecticut Crash Safety Research Center, Jeff Muttart, to measure the accuracy of pedestrian night perception. They put pedestrians in different colors of clothing, ranging from light to dark, on a road facing a distant car with its headlights on. Pedestrians were told to walk toward the car until they were sure they could be seen in the headlights, and the distance from pedestrian to driver seat was measured. Researchers then asked the drivers to go until they saw “something” in the road, without specifying what. That distance was measured, too.

Pedestrians dressed in black clothes believed themselves visible an average of 215 feet from the vehicle; the driver actually saw them at 140 feet on average, a difference of 75 feet, close to half the width of a football field. The math on that is lethal, Anderson says: At 45 mph, a driver would hit the person before recognizing and reacting to him or her.

Pedestrians in dark gray thought they were visible at 225 feet, and not the 158 feet at which the driver spotted them, a gap of 67 feet. It got worse with lighter clothing: In light gray, pedestrians believed they were visible at an average of 290 feet, a distance headlights could not even pierce — off by 83 feet or more than five car lengths.

The situation is probably much worse than the study indicates, Anderson says, because the study drivers knew there would be something in the road, "unlike someone going to the grocery store or a friend’s house, who would do worse.”

Headlights are part of the night issue, too. A 2015 survey of headlights by the American Automobile Association found “even the most advanced headlights fall 60 percent short of the sight distances that the full light of day provides.” Most low-beam headlights reach 100-160 feet.

A completely reflective jacket is a safety tool that keeps human form and alert drivers they're coming up on a pedestrian or cyclist. This one is a Proviz "Reflect 360" jacket. | Lois Collins, Deseret News

“I think both kids and parents don’t understand how big a deal the visibility issue is. We’re seeing it takes quite a bit of either light or someone actually having reflective stuff on for a driver to not only see but to recognize somebody as a pedestrian,” says Marques Varela, Vulnerable Roadway Users program manager in Utah’s Department of Public Safety.

These visual limitations pose a real challenge for conscientious bicyclists, joggers and walkers who try to make themselves safe with reflective gear, light colors or lights. Often, it doesn’t work.

Wearing a light is no promise of safe passage because it may masquerade among lights seen in the distance. Reflective gear looks stationary unless there’s enough of it to capture motion or a human form, which a reflective zipper and a logo won’t do at any distance.

Anderson tells of a guy who did everything right. He had a headlight on the front of his bike and a red light on the back, “bright as the sun, flashing.” But he blended into the horizon. He didn’t look like a person, he looked like one of many flashing lights along the route in front of him. By the time the driver who hit him got close enough to tell it was a man on a bike, it was too late.

“You can be lit up like a Christmas tree on a bike at night and people won’t see they are getting closer to you because you’re a small object. There’s no real way to tell that the light on the back of your bike is getting that much bigger,” says Ingebretsen. “That’s why we need two lights on a car or on the back of a bike, spread apart, which makes it much easier to see we’re encroaching.“

Crash investigations usually prove someone took action to avoid a crash but too late. That happens a lot with mid-block crossings. “Drivers are typically responding correctly,” Anderson notes of wrecks at night. “They’re responding late, though, because they don’t identify the danger in time to do anything before they hit. And to a person, pedestrians seem to think if they are on the roadway and they can see a car approaching, the driver can see them."

Blaming drivers for nighttime crashes doesn’t save lives. The way to significantly do that, Anderson says, is for pedestrians to save themselves. Forget who’s right. Stay alive. “If you are in the road where you can be hit at night, you will be hit,” he says.

He does note variation among driver reactions. A police officer, alert to surroundings and looking for what’s off, responds faster to a pedestrian. A driver who jogs does, too, similar to a motorcyclist being more likely to spot a motorcycle on the road.

The bottom line for Anderson is when it's dark out, pedestrians have to be extra alert. “Even if you’re crossing in a marked crosswalk, you cannot assume you are visible to a driver,” says Anderson. “It’s time for pedestrians to see they’re responsible for their safety. The other doesn’t work. I say this not to dismiss the responsibility of drivers. But pedestrians must know they have to keep themselves alive.”

Different dilemmas

Pedestrian deaths account for one-fourth of Nevada's traffic fatalities, much higher than Utah's 14 percent.

But neither tourists nor the Las Vegas Strip are responsible for the numbers as one might expect. Most pedestrian crashes in Nevada occur in residential areas, primarily in Washoe County in the north and in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, in the south. Many of those killed were walking impaired, according to Amy Davey, Nevada Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, and Erin Breen, program manager for the Vulnerable Road Users Project in northern Nevada.

Like other states, Nevada is working to engineer its way out of danger, and some of its strategies could be a blueprint for other communities.

But it’s hard to engineer good behavior and judgment. “Similar to other states, we’re struggling with how to address behavioral and decision-making issues for pedestrians,” says Breen, who notes that planners may design roads to move people from place to place in vehicles, creating hostile environments for walkers and bicyclists.

Nevada has undertaken high visibility enforcement. As with high-profile DUI enforcement, the state makes a multiagency production of ticketing drivers and pedestrians. They’ve used costumes, news stories and other tools. “The idea is, it’s not the tickets you write, it’s the people who see it on the news,” Breen says.

They ticket drivers who blow by pedestrians. They ticket distracted drivers. They ticket jaywalking and other dangerous pedestrian behavior. A ticket can be dismissed by attending a 2.5 hour safety course.

Technology is also used to improve safety, with different devices for different local challenges. For instance, Breen and Davey say Nevada is installing lots of rapid beeping flashers, called “stutter flash.” The predecessor plain flashing light has been around long enough people often ignore it. The pattern of the stutter flash beacon changes so the brain can't get used to it, and it's inexpensive, very visible and can be placed in different locations.

The factors that make driving a pleasure also make walking potentially hazardous, says Breen: Wide lanes, long blocks and flat roads are driver-friendly but leave pedestrians vulnerable to fast-moving cars with drivers less likely to expect and thus recognize a pedestrian quickly.

Arterial roads in Nevada are typically seven wide lanes across and posted at 45 mph, so “it’s very difficult to engineer safe crossing of a road like that, except for a red light,” says Breen. Then you have to worry about permitted left turns and right turns. On the corner of streets with on-street parking, Nevada has lengthened sidewalks to extend in front of cars and shorten crossing distance for pedestrians.

Street widths matter in Utah, too. Scott Jones, UDOT safety programs engineer, says narrower streets slow cars down and bring the roadside into the driver's view to see what's around him or her. (Interestingly, the width of the street may have more to do with fire departments getting their equipment in and out than safety or design. Some communities, like Daybreak or South Jordan, have voted for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly access by buying narrower fire and snow-removal equipment.)

Because streetlamps light roadways, not pedestrians, Nevada sometimes mounts on the same pole a gooseneck lamp that extends into the sidewalk and part of the crosswalk to light up pedestrians.

Other engineering designs are in the works, including infrared lights placed on 3-foot bollards that block vehicles from running into buildings. A pedestrian walking in a crosswalk between two such bollards breaks an infrared beam and the crosswalk lights up at road level, alerting drivers the crosswalk is occupied.

Where pedestrian traffic is heavy, Nevada uses a signal that turns green for pedestrians three seconds before it turns for cars, so pedestrians are partway in front of traffic before the cars move, making it more likely a car turning right will see them.

In one situation where cars were approaching a crosswalk too fast from a freeway off-ramp, an engineer jury-rigged a fix. Cars weren’t slowing fast enough before making a sweeping right turn into the heavily used crosswalk, so the engineer took a normal flashing yellow left-turn arrow and flipped it upside down: Now it’s a solid red arrow to start. For 15 seconds, cars can’t make right turns. Then it moves to the flashing yellow, then green.

Still, Nevada's biggest issue remains: “Truly not enough places for people to safely cross the street,” Breen says.

Jaywalkers plague safety planners. That's especially problematic in Las Vegas, vexed with too many driveways, forcing bus stops onto corners that leave those exiting the bus with an almost-irresistible urge to do what Breen calls the “seven-lane dash to death.” The first guy off the bus determines what will happen as most others follow him, she says.

Utah engineers have been hard at work, too. Jones likes the “hawk” traffic signal, a familiar sight between Temple Square and City Creek mall in Salt Lake City. It consists of three lights in an inverted triangle like a hawk face. When a pedestrian pushes the crosswalk button, it lights solid red, stopping traffic. Then it goes to flashing red signaling drivers to stop, then proceed if the crosswalk is clear. But drivers get impatient, and if pedestrians are spaced out, waits are long.

In front of Triad Center in Salt Lake City is a different type of crosswalk, called a “Danish offset,” in the shape of a sideways Z. To the impatient, it looks like the short jog midway across the street simply makes the crossing longer. In reality, it is intentionally designed to force a pedestrian to cross halfway, then face oncoming traffic briefly before finishing crossing. But that's only helpful if the person actually looks. There’s no safety benefit for those buried nose-deep in phones.

Challenges vary with location. In parts of Florida, Arizona and southern Utah, engineers must design with older drivers and pedestrians in mind. Portland, Oregon, has high numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists to consider.

Saving yourself and others

Robert Miles, UDOT director of Traffic and Safety, says 94 percent of crashes are a “behavior decision,” not a road design. None of it matters if pedestrians don’t take advantage of safety features or if drivers are distracted or blow past them. And while he thinks features like bright-colored flags to carry across a busy street can make pedestrians more visible, he worries they also give people a false sense of security.

Jones thinks people don’t fully understand how traffic signals work. For example, pushing the crosswalk button actually provides extra time to cross, though you have to wait your turn. Do it anyway, he says, or you’re invisible to the signal, which then focuses only on moving vehicles. He says UDOT can adjust crossing times at specific intersections to meet special needs of vulnerable roadway users, such as those who use a wheelchair and cross certain roads often, if someone alerts them to a need.

A reflective coat is worn on State Street in Salt Lake City on Aug. 10, 2017. Pedestrians who assume drivers see them or they're safe because they have the right of way, distracted drivers and poor road design all increase the risk of injury and even death. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Engineers, officers and others who deal with crashes have lots of life-saving advice:

  • Be where pedestrians are expected and not where no one is looking for them — for example, on the freeway. If you have a flat or crash there, pull to the shoulder if possible and call 911. “Stay in the car, which provides some protection,” Miles says.
  • Consider tools that show you’re human, like a bike-mounted light that shines on the rider, creating a person-shaped silhouette. Put reflective material or lights on body parts that move, like arms and legs, or choose outerwear that reflects in its entirety and screams, “I am human. Beware!”
  • Wear bright clothes by day, reflective at night.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths if possible. If not, walk on the shoulder facing traffic and pay attention.
  • Many pedestrians try to game a traffic signal by crossing with cars instead of waiting for pedestrian signals. Don't.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Cross at crosswalks or intersections if possible. Otherwise, find a well-lit area to cross.
  • When you start across a road with a median, look both ways. Go to the center briskly, stop and look again.
  • Cars may not see you. See them and stay out of their way.
  • In school zones and residential areas, watch for little feet visibly crossing under the front of parked cars. That can alert you a child is about to run into your path.
  • Be extra aware of pedestrians in parking lots.
  • Don’t walk or drive impaired.

Saving Brielle

Even slight contact with a car can destabilize someone enough to knock her down.

“Even if a car doesn’t injure you, falling and hitting your head can cause devastating or fatal injuries,” says Ingebretsen. Anderson says most pedestrians die because they hit their head — on the road, on the car, on the curb.

Brielle was hit hard.

Doctors kept her in a coma for two weeks and put a bolt in her head to measure accumulating fluids and monitor the swelling of her brain. She had skull fractures around her eyes, ears and jaw. She is now permanently deaf in one ear. Bleeding in her brain was equivalent to some degree of stroke. Bones in her neck, lower back and pelvis broke. Her left foot, ankle, wrist and hand were broken, as was her right hip.

Brielle Frear kisses her dog Echo at home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

For two weeks, it wasn’t clear she would live. Doctors at Intermountain Medical Center and then Primary Children’s Hospital struggled to lower pressure on her brain and treat all of her injuries. Some effects of the traumatic brain injury will be lifelong.

She didn’t fight the respirator, indicating how badly hurt she was. She didn’t open her eyes or twitch. Her mom wasn’t sure she was in there. But it was worse when she started coming around. She was in pain and agitated. And she was so tiny she was dwarfed by the neck brace that stabilized her spine.

Doctors kept finding new problems as they dealt with big, obvious ones. She had broken ribs and her lung collapsed. They put in a chest tube. Her jaw was misaligned. She had a seizure. When something went right, something else went wrong.

While she fought for life in the days right after the crash, rumors started. Some claimed, falsely, that the girls had been goofing off, maybe playing "Pokemon Go" in the road. Others said the driver was impaired by alcohol. None of it was true, and the rumors added new layers of pain for everyone involved.

After five weeks, it became clear Brielle would live, but no one could tell how completely she would recover.

Brielle Frear talks to her mom while getting a drink at home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

She was home-schooled her junior year because of her injuries. She’s heading back next week for her senior year — not without some trepidation. She was a good student who never expected to struggle like she did last year, frustrated by how hard schoolwork was after the crash. She doesn’t know how well she’ll do or if she'll fit in the same.

Still, she smiles easily, laughs readily and is looking forward to being back among her friends.

But her challenges linger. She recently had surgery on her left hand, where the bone didn’t heal properly. Her knee gives her problems, despite physical therapy, but she's glad to no longer need a wheelchair.

Brielle relearned to speak, to write, to do other things. Sometimes finding the right word is a joyless scavenger hunt. Decision-making and common sense are both “a lot harder,” common with traumatic brain injury. She tires easily and still gets headaches.

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She used to love dance, but isn't sure she can hold her own now. Her energy level is erratic.

Brielle Frear laughs with her mom at home in Murray on Monday, July 3, 2017. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Anxiety may be her biggest foe. Both she and her mom are more anxious when they have to cross a road. Being in a car triggers anxiety, too, as happened recently when they crossed a train track. The train light, though distant, frightened Brielle.

Not long ago, an errant ball flew Brielle’s way and she had a small panic attack. “It’s perhaps not surprising,” says her mom. “The last thing that lunged in her direction was a family sedan.”

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