Friday May 24, 2013
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It makes us shudder when we think of someone lying injured in the road in a motorized wheelchair. That's not an easy image to deal with.
I'm glad that Barbara Baker and Boomer, her service dog, are both well, and I hope that Boomer gets back to good health. I'm sure you feel the same way.
When something like this happens we have to ask ourselves how it happened, why it happened, and how it can be avoided. There's nothing to be gained by putting all the blame on either the driver or the pedestrian. Either can be at fault.
One thing I objected to in the article about this accident was the comment made when the woman told officers she didn't think she had done anything wrong.
“She asked the officer, “Why am I getting a ticket? I didn’t see her,’” Baker said. “He said, ‘That is why you are getting a ticket.’”
That may be a cute quip, but it is NOT a reason to issue someone a ticket. I find it hard to believe a police officer would say it. If the answer had been, "Did you look in that direction?" and the reply had been, "Well, no." THEN the woman's answer would have been a reason to issue a ticket.
Considering the situation, as described, I suspect the ticket was well warranted, but that comment was not. If a person in a car is waiting to turn at the very wide 87 exit like that at the Bashas' parking lot it would be very hard for someone in a wheelchair to move fast enough to go from a position where she wasn't in sight to one where she could be seen in the time it takes to turn your head. So that ticket appears well justified.
But let's consider pedestrians, bikes, and wheelchairs when they are around cars. I do not know all there is to know about this, or anything else for that matter, but I've noticed a couple of things you have probably seen yourself, so I'll mention them. I'm going to use "ped" to mean anyone who is walking, biking, or riding a wheelchair so as to save space.
a. Cars which do not roll far enough forward while they are waiting to exit create a dangerous situation. I see people who sit as much as five to eight feet back from the roadway while they wait to exit. That is an unsafe practice. It takes too long to roll into the roadway, allowing cars on the road to move a long distance before a car can accelerate and exit. More importantly, because the car has not rolled far enough forward to block the sidewalk, a ped may decide to cross in front of it. I have seen at least a half dozen times when I thought a driver was going to hit a ped who did that, and I suspect that is what happened in this case. The driver carelessly left the sidewalk open instead of blocking it and making an accident impossible.
b. On the other hand, as a matter of simple courtesy, when I am approaching the exit I always look far left and far right to see if there is a ped coming on the sidewalk. That way, if someone is coming I can wait the few seconds necessary to allow him or her to go by. I always look at the ped and wave him or her to go. In the first place it's safer, and in the second place it's polite, so why not do it?
c. The woman's comment about not seeing the ped is well taken. In the Walmart parking lot I see peds making the same dangerous mistake all the time. The place for a ped in a parking lane is the MIDDLE of the lane, not right behind the vehicles. A driver sitting in a parking space cannot see through the vehicles next to him; it is impossible. He must slowly roll back, checking behind him, in the rearview mirror, and in each side mirror. The time a ped can move from a hidden position in a spot right behind a car is about one tenth of a second. Just last week I saw a man in a powered shopping cart come so close to being hit I still don't see how it didn't happen. I was walking up the lane into Walmart. Here came a powered shopping cart, rolling downhill at a good pace right behind the row of cars, too low to be seen from inside the large pickup he was approaching unless he was at least five to eight feet back of it. He rolled directly behind it when it was already creeping back. I saw the driver's head turn right toward his right hand mirror. There was nothing to see. As his head turned the other way the cart passed directly behind the large pickup. I was so shocked there wasn't even time to yell. The pickup rolled back the cart cleared it by inches. My heart was in my mouth. I thought I was about to see someone killed. If that ped had been killed I'd have stayed right there to tell the police whose fault it was. There was NO way that driver could have known the ped was coming. He belonged in the MIDDLE of the lane, not right behind the cars.
I'll add just one more thing because I have twice passed accidents in Mesa involving a bike.
A bicycle rolling as an easy pace does 10 to 12 mph (I'm a bicyclist so I know). A ped does about 2 mph on a sidewalk. Coming to an exit a bicycle can appear out of nowhere before a driver can see it. Twice in Mesa I saw an accident where a bicycle riding on the sidewalk went straight into a ped crossing without slowing down and was hit by a car turning right. I was--thank God!--spared the sight of the actual hit!
If you ride a bike on the sidewalk, ride it at a pedestrian rate. People who are walking, and people coming out of parking lots cannot see you and they do not expect someone to come out of nowhere at five to six times the speed of a pedestrian. If you ride at a rate faster that the people walking the sidewalk you are sooner or later going to hit one of them, and "one of them" may be a small child. And darting out into a crosswalk or into an exit from a parking lot is gambling. It's your life; if you want to keep it, exercise some common sense.
I had an accident on University in Mesa back in the 60's. I was driving on University when a little girl about the 2nd grade rode out into the street. I knew I couldn't stop so I crossed over three lanes of the road to miss her. Didn't work. She was hypnotized by what she had done and turned her bike towards me like a magnet. She ran into my back bumper going in the same direction. I couldn't get away from her. She should have either went straight across the street or turned toward the school. I stopped, put her bike in my car, took her home to change clothes then drove her to Emerson School. I stayed in the car while she changed as she was a latch key kid and no one was home. Took her to school and into the principal to explain what happened. I don't know who was more shaken, her or me. Don't know what she told her parents as I never heard from them or the police.
For people that don't know, at that time there were only about 50,000 people in all of Mesa so not a lot of traffic on University. Also I was not afraid to take her home as that was before all the crazies were grabbing kids. I couldn't leave her in the middle of the street with a broken bike. This was before cell phones so didn't call anyone.
Sometimes things happen.
Things do happen. I had the unfortunate experience of seeing it up close and way-to-personal about 20 years ago while driving east on Washington in Phoenix. Two kids ran out of a small business front right in front of me. I was in the right hand lane, and I'll never know why but something told me there were more that might be coming. Close. There was one straggler. Sure enough, he bolted right in front of me without looking to stay up with his buddies. I was already on the brakes and he stopped right in front of me with that deer-in-the-headlights expression.
Then he took right off again. A vehicle coming from behind and in the left lane could not see the kid because of my truck (although he should have known I wouldn't slam on the brakes with no reason).
The boy, who was 12, darted right in front of the car, which was going at about 35. He slammed into the boy, who was tossed quite a distance, his shoes flying in different directions. I stopped, made sure his airway was clear and somebody went into the storefront and called 911. He lived, thank goodness. I told the police that the boy was no where near a cross walk, darted in front of me, stopped, and then took off again. Later, I had to field a bunch of calls from lawyers trying to get me to blame the driver. I referred all of them to the police report I gave. As terribly as I felt for the kid, he made a mistake. To my knowledge, the driver, who also stopped, was never cited and the lawyers quit calling, so I assume they decided there was no injury case. I'll never forget that sight, though. That was a bad day. I bet I told m own kids about it 10 different times, just to make sure they understood that it only takes one split-second lapse in judgment to cause a lot of misery.
I try to stay in the left lane so if some kid decides to run out in the street I can see them.
If I am in the right lane and they aren't in a crosswalk, I honk my horn and don't stop because the car next to me probably won't see them and the same thing will happen as it did to you. Hope that made sense.
Highway 87 going thru town is really bad. No crosswalks except at the lights. People of all ages on foot and bicycles are always running across in front of traffic.
I worked at Carson, right next to Emerson. I had an 8th grader in one of my classes killed right there on University. And I saw a lot of crazy things that kids did. It's scary. Kids are kids, of course, and I don't blame them for that, but then it's hard to blame parents either. I tell you the truth, I have no answers for kids and accidents.
As you described that happened I had an eerie feeling that I was watching something that had happened to me in Mesa--all except for the kid being hit; I was spared that part.
It was so much alike, though. Instead of two kids running out, it was a basketball rolling out onto a main street during morning rush hour. I spotted it, and the man in his pickup three cars ahead of me did too. He jammed on his brakes even though traffic was right behind him. We all managed to do the same thing, without a collision--at least at first. The ball rolled right across two lanes--followed by a kid, of course.
What exactly happened after that with the kid I do not know (except that he wasn't hurt). Two pickup trucks behind me, one an older Toyota and one a brand spanking new Toyota, rammed me. Actually, the guy behind me managed to stop, but the young college student behind him had just turned onto the road and was still accelerating as we all stopped. She just could not stop in time. She rammed the small pickup behind me, and he rammed me.
What a shame! The Toyota behind me was totaled, its whole front end bent at an angle, engine knocked off its mounts, radiator fluid spilling into the road. And his rear end was crumpled up. The brand new one had come off better, but her front end was damaged too. Poor kid was crying. It was her first day of college and her father had bought her a brand new truck. I always hoped that she got over what happened. While the police officer was making out his report I told her not to worry about my Bronco; it was only mildly damaged and I got it fixed myself.
But the image of that ball rolling into the road...?
Must have been really bad for you, Robert.
I ran into a similar thing with a crosswalk across a main, high speed, six lane road during the afternoon rush hour. I was in the inner lane and saw the two cars in the outer two lanes stopped, so I stopped. Sure enough, here came a woman crossing that high speed road--as she had every right to do. In a way it was scary, but in a way it felt good to know that traffic had stopped.
I'm glad you tried to do right by the guy who stopped. I have a thing about lawyers who only think of trying to get money for something. I did my best with the police officer who was making out the report. I pointed out that the poor college kid had come out of a side street, and had just started to accelerate when the traffic stopped dead in front of her. Did it do any good? I don't know.
What a hell of a lousy thing to have happen to her on a day like that!
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