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Mom, 3 sons killed crossing Philly highway

PHILADELPHIA -- Samara Banks often called a cab to take her and her four little boys home from family visits on the other side of Roosevelt Boulevard, a 12-lane, crosstown highway that's notorious in Philadelphia for both drag racing and pedestrian deaths.

But she thought it had cooled down enough Tuesday night to walk the mile back home.

Banks, 28, and her three youngest sons were killed as they crossed at a point with grassy medians but no crosswalk or traffic light. Her eldest, a 5-year-old, survived with bumps and bruises.

Police were questioning a 22-year-old driver allegedly seen racing another vehicle just before the 10:30 p.m. crash, and said charges were pending.

"The cab service knows her well," said LaTanya Byrd, an aunt who described Banks as a devoted mother who had helped raise siblings after her own mother died. "Last night, it got a little cooler and she felt she could walk."

Roosevelt Boulevard had the nation's 2nd and 3rd most dangerous intersections in a 2001 insurance company study, which tallied 618 crashes at those intersections in a two-year period.

The speed limit is 40 mph where Banks and her boys were killed, but drivers frequently go 10 or 20 miles above that to make, or run, a light, neighbors said yesterday. Many residents of the lower-income area don't have cars, and traverse the boulevard on foot to get to schools, parks and stores.

Just hours after Banks and her boys died, Iris Rolon chose the same mid-block route to cross with her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old niece. They were walking to a city pool on the 95-degree day.

"It ain't safe, but I like to wait until I see that the light changes," said Rolon, who admits she once had a close call crossing the boulevard in her youth.

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