Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Both Sides

Both Sides
B Company, 224th Military Intelligence Battalion
Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

People are unpredictable. How many times have you darted across a street where there was no crosswalk? Did you look both ways first? Do you know if vehicle drivers saw you? As a pedestrian, you can’t assume every driver knows your intentions. That’s a lesson I learned at young age.

I was 9 years old, walking home from the last day of fourth grade with my 6-year-old sister. I was so excited about summer break and in a hurry to get home. To save time, I decided to cross the street before reaching the corner where we always crossed. Traffic was lined up at the stop sign, so the cars in the lane I was next to were stopped. I walked behind the last car and looked to the right. It was clear. I turned to tell my sister to follow me and then started running for the other side of the road without checking for traffic again. I almost made it — almost.

I heard the screech of tires and felt the bumper hit my right knee, followed by the grill and hood against my right thigh and hip. As I was propelled into the air, I hit my forearm on the top of passenger-side quarter panel. I continued to flip through the air, breaking off the antenna and mirror with my back before landing in the street.

I never even saw the Cadillac coming. The driver didn’t see me either. She had just turned the corner and accelerated to 30 mph in the 15-mph school zone. She was in a hurry, too, as she raced to the school to pick up her daughter. Everything happened so fast that she didn’t even apply her brakes until six feet before impact.

When all was said and done, I’d suffered a concussion and received a few cuts and scrapes. My entire body ached, but I didn’t have any broken bones. I was fortunate to be alive — and even more fortunate my sister didn’t listen to me when I told her to follow me. Wisely, she had stayed on the sidewalk.

After this accident, I had a new respect for cars. While the driver was in the wrong for speeding, I had to share the blame because I didn’t use the crosswalk like I had every time before that day. Since then, I always look both ways three or four times before stepping into the road and constantly monitor traffic as I am crossing. When I am at a crosswalk in front of a stopped vehicle, I always make eye contact with the driver before I continue. In most states, I likely have the right of way in a crosswalk, but I never assume that a driver sees me and is going to stop. Also, when running for PT, I always face oncoming traffic and never wear headphones. If I need to answer my phone, make a call or send a text, I first step off to the side of the road. Some may call me overly cautious, but I’m determined to never be hit by a car again.

I wish this was the end of my story, but, unfortunately, several years later, the roles were reversed.

As I mentioned before, people are unpredictable. For example, how many times have you approached an intersection in your vehicle and seen pedestrians crossing even though you have a green light? How many people do you see walking or jogging in the street, oblivious to the traffic around them? How many people have walked out in front of you in a parking lot? How many kids have you seen blindly run into the street to retrieve a ball? As a driver, you can’t assume a pedestrian sees your vehicle, even when you have the right of way. And in a battle of car versus pedestrian, I know all too well that the car always wins. Here’s what happened.

Once again, it was summertime. I was now 16 and I had just gotten off work. Driving my mother’s car, I was on my way to pick up a buddy who lived on the other side of the river. I was traveling in the right lane of a four-lane road at about 55 mph. The posted speed limit was 50 mph, so I was speeding, but not by much.

About a half-mile after crossing the long bridge that spanned the river, there was a traffic light, which was red. I had slowed to about 35 mph when the light turned green. The left lane had about six cars in it, but my lane was clear, so I started accelerating. As I began to pass the cars at the traffic light, they began to accelerate too. Just as my front bumper was even with the lead vehicle, a dark figure came across its headlights and then into mine.

I immediately slammed on the brakes. My tires screeched and I felt a large thud. The feeling and sound of the impact sent a shiver down my spine. My bumper had hit the man’s right leg and sent him tumbling through the air, landing on his head. He’d almost made it across — almost.

I stopped the car and ran back toward the point of impact. I found the man 20 feet from where we’d collided. He was a mess. Although he was laying face up, his legs were folded underneath him. But he was alive. In addition to two broken legs, his knees were shattered. He also had a broken arm and cracked ribs. He spent the next 18 months in a hospital, undergoing more than 20 surgeries to fix his legs and knees. He spent another two years in physical therapy learning how to walk again.

Although I blamed myself for the accident, the state troopers who worked the scene determined I was not at fault. The man had been drunk and was attempting to cross the poorly lit intersection despite having the “Don’t Walk” signal. He was also wearing dark blue jeans and a black t-shirt and hat. Regardless, he spent eight years in legal actions against my parents in an attempt to recover damages for lost work and hospital bills. Fortunately, a judge later determined the same thing as the troopers and dismissed the lawsuit.

After this accident, I had a new respect for pedestrians. Since then, I always slow down at night when approaching an intersection, looking for pedestrians near the crosswalks. When I am at a stop sign, I always try to make eye contact with a pedestrian before they cross in front of me. Even if I have the right of way, I’ll never just assume a pedestrian is paying attention. And when I see kids playing in a yard, I always slow down well below the posted speed limit. Some may call me overly cautious, but I’m determined to never hit someone with my car again.

Pedestrians and drivers must have a mutual respect for one another. After all, every day most of us are either one or the other. Whether it is texting while walking or fiddling with the GPS or radio while driving, limit the distractions when you are on the move and pay attention to the task at hand. As someone who’s been on both sides, I can tell you neither one is much fun. Either one of these accidents could have ruined my life at a very young age. Don’t let one ruin yours.

  • 1 June 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13582
  • Comments: 0