31 Oct 2013

9, 20, 75,5.

He was 9 years old. The 20th of October was a day the kids stayed home while the teachers had a Professional Day at school. It was clear, warm; a beautiful day to make chocolate chip pancakes. Big sister was mixing the batter, while he went to the corner for the chips. That corner now bears his name.

It was named in his honor (not memory), recognizing the seriousness of the accident and to draw attention to the changes brought about by that incident. This sweet 4th grader was in the crosswalk, drivers in both directions had already stopped for him. It was the car that chose to pass on the right, grazing the curb on the not overly wide road, which hit him.

The driver of that car stopped and was given a $75 citation for ‘failure to yield to a pedestrian.’ A slap on the wrist for nearly severing a boy’s foot from his leg.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of that event. And a few things have changed since then. By law, the distance vehicles must stop on either side of a crosswalk has doubled, and the broad discretionary citing of an Officer has been amended. In that period of time, bicycle use tripled and cell phones were invented.
It’s a Perfect Storm.

As more people opt out of cars for health, environmental or financial reasons, we are all succumbing to an insidious addiction to ‘Distractibles.’

With each upgrade to the ismartsiridevice, fewer folks look up. Ever. Bicyclist and pedestrians are plugged into their music, unable to hear if someone is approaching or passing on a shared path. It seems like they can’t find the right song; they’re always LOOKING DOWN to search their playlist. Often barely avoiding a close encounter with someone busy texting who is also LOOKING DOWN. Same for bikers, who manage to stay alive (usually), even with the same use of Distractibles. And this happens at night, too. Ditto for drivers, who eagerly obey the ‘no texting while driving’ caveat whenever they notice a Cruiser approaching. Which they can’t notice because they’re LOOKING DOWN at their distractible.

Safe Travel 101 clearly emphasizes using your eyes and ears, paying attention to your surroundings, being diligent, visible and predictable. LOOKING DOWN is exactly the opposite. It’s also bad for your posture and detrimental to your well-being.

One thing that’s not changed much since 1998 is the sense of entitlement that accompanies too many travelers. The Kamikaze bicyclist who weaves through traffic and around pedestrian, the carist who refuses to share the road or use turn signal, the walker who ignore traffic signals and bike lanes are all part of the problem; like a race horse with blinders. The focus is to get to the end as quickly as possible, avoiding obstacles and leaving dirt in the face of whoever is passed.

The recovery of the little boy was deemed a miracle. After a few surgeries and PT he has almost normal use of his foot and leg. He can walk, run, ride a bike and drive a car. Grateful not only that he did well, his accident helped change some important safety laws in the Commonwealth. He hopes others grow up knowing the law and learning to travel responsibly. Trucks, cars, bikes, scooters, legs, buses and taxis share the roads and walkways respectfully and graciously. That might take a miracle, too.