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Until yesterday, the subject of distracted drivers and their role in pedestrian accidents was merely an abstract annoyance.  When I moved to DC, I quite willingly gave up my car and resorted largely to my own two legs to get me where I needed to be.  Periodically one hears a horror story here about when a jogger, walker, cyclist, or all around fellow human gets mowed down by an inattentive driver.  Recently, there have been a handful of similar incidents where people were seriously hurt.  I suppose I may have been remiss to not use that information and apply it to my life, but I always justified my inaction by feeling certain that such a thing would never happened to me.  Well, never happened yesterday.

Life has a way of throwing you a curveball from time to time. Yesterday I was on my way to the gym, whereupon I was blindsided by a shuttle bus. Traffic accidents are rarely acts of rationality, but what I found so bewildering is how the situation had happened in the first place. The crossing signal light flashed white, clearly indicating that I was safe to proceed, and with plenty of time to spare, no less. Halfway across the road, something made me look over my left shoulder, where I discovered to my horror that the front bumper of a white bus bearing down, mere inches from me. Had it not been traveling directly in my blind side, I might have had time to avoid it a little earlier.

I screamed and put my arms out reflexively to try to avoid being toppled to the ground. The force of the impact pushed me slightly backwards, and I pivoted hard to my right, like a toreador trying to avoid an angry bull. Fortunately, I was successful in my efforts to avoid the full force of the bus, but I planted awkwardly, coming down hard on my right leg. From the instant my leg hit the pavement, I knew I was going to be in trouble. In shock, I limped my way all the way to the other side of the street.

Two separate witnesses kept asking Are you okay? Are you okay?

I mumbled, I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay. That was all I could manage. And by that I suppose I meant, Well, I'm not bleeding to death.

After pausing all of five whole seconds, the bus driver assumed I wasn't seriously hurt and drove away.  Granted, I wasn't crumbled to the pavement, but I wasn't exactly the picture of health, either.  I should have immediately called the police, but I was stunned and trying desperately to make sense of what had just happened.  I was also angry at the reaction of one of the witnesses, a woman who kept asking, Didn't you see it coming?  At what point was it my responsibility?  I would have had to be looking well over my left shoulder the whole time, when I was completely focused instead straight in front of me, making it across a roadway.  I must have used that same crossing a thousand times before, and it seemed incomprehensible that something so familiar 99.9% percent of the time could have created something like this.  

As best I can fathom, the driver was making a left-hand turn from a side road onto the larger avenue upon which I was crossing.  Either he ran the light altogether or, the light having changed green, neglected to recognize even with permission to drive, pedestrians have the right of way.  After the morning rush clears out, that particular avenue is not especially busy.  Perhaps he had gotten into the habit of assuming there would be few people, including pedestrians out and about then.  Perhaps he had music turned up too high.  Perhaps he was distracted by other people in the shuttle, but in any case, why it happened is not nearly as important as the fact that it did.

I may never know what the driver was thinking.  After establishing that I was not immediately visibly hurt, he drove away.  It took me a long while to come to my senses.  I was in shock and didn't do what I should have done in that instance, which would have been to call the police immediately.  By the time I did think to do so, I'd already left the scene of the accident, as had the witnesses.  At that point, there was nothing I could do.  This is another example of when laws, as they are constructed, really fail us.  In a crisis situation, people need an advocate and we must stop seeing ourselves as complete strangers in every circumstance imaginable.  We can be strangers to each other most of the time, if we wish, but if the system is ever to work effectively, we can't be standoffish when our engagement and involvement is badly needed.

Had someone recognized that I was clearly incapable of reporting what had happened, they could have easily called the police for me.  Don't get me wrong.  I recognize that Good Samaritans have never been plentiful, but do allow me the ability to take what happened to me and use it as constructive platform to push even more strongly that we really need to look out for each other.  But in the meantime, please don't drive while you talk on the phone unless you're using a hands free setup.  Please don't ever make assumptions about the traffic conditions on the roads you drive on a consistent basis.  They are subject to change at any time.  Please don't perceive of pedestrians, joggers, walkers, and foot traffic as impediments to your getting somewhere and in so doing, lose your patience behind the wheel.  We've all had close calls before while driving, and I certainly have, too.  It's a miracle there aren't more of them, especially now that we have so many distractions and demands upon our immediate attention.

As for me?  I've sustained some ligament damage to my right leg.  I hope it isn't anything more serious than a severe sprain or minor tear, but I'm having it checked out in any case.  Though I find it a challenge to walk now without considerable pain, it's a chilling thought to contemplate that had any number of factors been different, I might have been seriously injured.  I can say that from now on, if I'm driving somewhere, I'll be more attentive and deferent to pedestrians, and you can be damn sure I'll be looking in every direction imaginable when it comes time for me to cross the street--any street.

Originally posted to cabaretic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:41 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (26+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:41:59 AM PDT

  •  The driver should have stopped (17+ / 0-)

    He left the scene of an accident. Report the incident to the police and the company and make them pay for your treatment.

  •  Call the police! (13+ / 0-)

    Okay, maybe it's too late to catch the driver; but file a report.  Give them as much info as you can remember.  Who knows, maybe there are traffic cameras at that intersection and the incident was captured.  In any event, the driver committed a crime by leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. You should report it.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:56:03 AM PDT

  •  Sometimes there are ads in the paper (7+ / 0-)

    looking for witnesses to an accident. If you need to, you can have your attorney do this. You can also look for the bus passengers who witnessed the incident, if the driver doesn't come forward, although his company should be able to at least identify him.

    You may have an injury that will linger and cause greater problems later. You may need help with medical costs in the future. But I hope it doesn't come to that, and you heal quickly.

  •  I'm sorry about your pain (5+ / 0-)

    and glad it's not worse.

    I agree that you should call the police.  The driver struck you with a vehicle and left without even stopping to fully assess the situation.  That sucks.

    "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

    by sheddhead on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:24:59 AM PDT

  •  Oh my gosh... that's terrible... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckylizard, CayceP

    call the police now, chances are if you are in DC it is on video since they have camera's everywhere and go to the doctor NOW.  Please take care of yourself and good luck.  

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams -6.5 -6.75

    by Statusquomustgo on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:27:57 AM PDT

  •  For less than a thousand dollars... (8+ / 0-)

    A student at my alma mater died because of a careless driver.

    She was in a clearly marked crosswalk in a four lane street. There was no traffic moving one way, and in the other direction, one car had stopped. She was 90% of the way through the crosswalk when a driver behind the car that stopped became impatient, pulled out from behind the stopped vehicle, and gunned it.

    She died about a week later from internal injuries. Her name was Gladys.

    The local media of the small town I went to college in decided to focus on the fact that Gladys had been talking on a cell phone when she was hit. Not that cars had clearly stopped for her, or that she was in a crosswalk and therefore had right of way, to say nothing of the environment she was crossing in: a main street near a university and high school, which should have provided drivers with some awareness of foot traffic.

    Nope. She was on a cellphone, cried the town. She deserved to die. She must have been stupid, they said, or not instructed in very basic, childlike lessons: "look both ways!" they wrote. The cited Darwin. They authored hateful comments on the local newspaper's website, wrote angry letters to the university, and said the laws of physics mattered more than anything else.

    The driver was fined less than a thousand dollars, if I remember correctly.

    I become so angry when I hear about this sort of thing. I am glad you are not more seriously hurt.

    I don't know how to drive. I'm afraid I wouldn't be a very good driver, so I've held off much longer than most people do. Bad drivers simply do not comprehend how dangerous they are.

    I wish they did.

    I wish Gladys was still here.

    Fluorescent, flat, caffeine lights / It's furious balancing

    by CayceP on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:31:03 AM PDT

    •  NYS has started using in-the-road signs (0+ / 0-)

      at cross walks indicating the pedestrian has the Right of Way.  I see them particularily on campus.  The signs train pedistrians to ignor common sense.  All you see is kids walking or running out into the street without looking.
      Sorry about your friend but as long as people have been driving most assume they have the ROW. Young drivers in particular don't have all the knowledge or skills of self control and there is DWI on campus.  Legally you may be right but don't be dead right.

    •  I was taught (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rockhound, marina, Hope4USnow, CayceP

      that pedestrians always had the right of way.  Crosswalks or not, lights or not, drunk or sober, a person is no match for a vehicle, and it's always the responsibility of the driver to avoid a pedestrian.  Of course, I'm old.  Now it seems that any and every machine, including cars and cellphones, take precedence over a living, breathing human being.  

      I rarely wish for or think about "the good old days,"  but I wish there were a way to have some of the knowledge and attitudes of the "old days" with the technology of today.  I've recently lost my vehicle because of a broken transmission.  While it's difficult to get around here on public transportation, I'm considering being a non-driver for the first time in over 40 years.  So far, it seems to be working...

      I'm sorry about your friend and the attitudes of those who chose to blame her for losing a fight with a car.  I hope they never have to deal with the same situation, with or without a cellphone.

      -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

      by luckylizard on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 08:02:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  all true (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But our lightness of being says to look both ways before crossing.  Common Sense!

        •  No doubt (0+ / 0-)

          There is responsibility on both sides, but if I hit a pedestrian or cyclist, no amount of common sense on either side will protect that poor body.  I'd have to live with that knowledge forever.  BTW, I had a near-miss when I was young.  A car pulled out from behind a line of stopped cars and I ended up sprawled across the hood, uninjured but shaken.  I learned never to assume anything, either when driving or walking.

          -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

          by luckylizard on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 09:08:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bus Drivers seem to think they rule the streets. (0+ / 0-)

    Giant behemoths that stop for nobody.

    You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars... Desiderata

    by byteb on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:37:34 AM PDT

  •  Not distracted driving. Hit and Run. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKinTN, luckylizard
    I don't like finding any more reason for police to interfere with the public's freedom. Distracted Driving is a revenue mechanism more than a solution.
  •  Unfortunately (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    too many liberals drive distracted. I kind of expect it from conservatives. I constantly see people texting while driving in my liberal neighborhood. Also talking on their cell phones, but not the hand free handset. So they are breaking the law of several years, but the police don't enforce it.

    Legally drivers are responsible. But "metal beats flesh", so always assume drivers are NOT paying attention and be on the lookout.

    The driver who hit you should have stopped. Other commenters have given you good suggestions on tracking down the driver. Please use them

    Bi-partisanship is a MEANS, not an ENDS.-Barney Frank Feb 2009

    by sd4david on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:08:43 AM PDT

  •  file a police report, find the bus driver... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rockhound, marina

    you were HIT!  That means "accident!"  
    The fact that you were dazed afterward is enough to know that you were injured.  Follow up medical is vital!
    Witness names?  Keep us posted!

    Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

    by quityurkidding on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:30:47 AM PDT

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