Thursday, July 28, 2011

Convicting the Victim

(HT: Alli)

At least there was enough intelligence from the bench to allow a retrial in this case: a mother convicted of vehicular homicide because someone else ran down and killed her 4 year old with their car.

People looking at this case will say "but, Pat, she was jaywalking with her 4 year old." I guess that's the conclusion you'd reach if you only read the AJC, the Wall Street Journal, or watched CNN. There's more to this story, and yes, city planning is just as culpable if not moreso.

This is what people are talking about when they say roads are not safe for pedestrians.

She was jaywalking. Correct. And, Lord knows, I ain't no fan of jaywalking moms with kids on busy roads. But I "jaywalked" every time I went to a friend's house growing up on St. Simons Island, because their house was on the other side of the road from the bike path. I grew up in a small town, but people still got hit crossing Frederica Road, to be sure. Two lanes are easier to cross than 5, after all, but when resurfacing came through Island City, they installed a half dozen new pedestrian crossings. Why would they do that? Why would a place like Glynn County consider pedestrian crossings important enough to spend money on them?

The answer is simple: St. Simons prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle safety as part of its design as a tourist destination. Cobb County prioritizes cars to move people quickly from one exurb to the next. Such decisions have real world, sometimes life-and-death consequences.

She was jaywalking because she was traveling by foot in a car dominated area.

That's because her bus stop lets her out on the other side of Austell Road from her apartment complex, where the closest crosswalk is 3/10ths of a mile away. That's more than half a mile round trip, on foot, with three kids carrying full shopping bags, at night, after already waiting an hour for the bus. Not everybody owns a car. Not everybody can park that car in a garage or a driveway and watch the kids pile out into the house.

Half a mile in the dark with kids next to a busy highway or cross five lanes (75 feet?) of highway? What's your choice, tired mother of three? There aren't any good ones available.

And that's before you add in the driver, allegedly inebriated because in a car-centric world, the bars are located in "commercially zoned" areas and linked to "residential areas" by roads with no pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure.



Dante said...

No, she was not jaywalking. Georgia statute 40-6-92 specifies when and how to use crosswalks. The only time crosswalks are mandatory is when you are between two intersection with traffic lights. Look at the picture in the first link. To the left of the bus stop is an intersection that has no traffic light. It was perfectly legal to cross there. However, she does not have the right of way in this situation. She would've been in just as much legal trouble had this death occurred from being in a car that failed to yield at an intersection.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Got me on the jaywalking thing. Didn't think GA was so specific.

So she crosses the road 50 feet to the left, and this case gets thrown out because she has the right of way? I hardly see that happening.

On a second look, it ain't like that rule is somehow obvious to the person trying to cross the street. There is no crosswalk at the divided highway interection, just like there is no crosswalk 50 feet down the road. I see no signs stating the rules. You know what I do see? A short concrete median that offers some measure of protecton from traffic, however inadequate.

It is safer for people on foot and people in cars to have dedicated crosswalks for pedestrians, but this area - like so many in the Metro area - is not planned for that. That type of poor planning gets people killed.

But that isn't a part of the conversation, because people would rather talk about how irresponsible the mother is for daring to cross the road at night with children.

alli said...

It's worth noting that this isn't even the first time this has occurred in Cobb County.

alli said...

Nor is this the only place in Metro Atlanta to have these kinds of problems.