Hard lessons.

What an awful story: Not one, but two U of M students hit and killed by a pickup truck as they tried to cross a busy road in the dark.

On the one hand, there was no crosswalk outside a popular cultural center heavily attended by carless students, one situated on a busy, five-lane road.

On the other hand: Two young women dressed in dark clothing. At night. They doubled back in front of an oncoming vehicle.

I doubt the driver will be cited, but what a waste of life. And the miracle is, the way pedestrians conduct themselves around here, that it doesn’t happen every day. Every drive near campus includes people walking blithely in front of oncoming traffic, trusting that the car will somehow be repelled by the force field of their personality, perhaps.

The rules of engagement: Pedestrians usually have the right of way. But they always lose the battle. It’s not worth it.

Posted at 5:37 pm in Uncategorized |

16 responses to “Hard lessons.”

  1. beth said on November 11, 2003 at 12:38 am

    This story should be read and acknowledged by any individual who runs a campus. I somehow was indoctrined during my freshman year at college that pedestrians have the right of way. And yes, that meant that we crossed whenever and however we had the chance. Now, years later, as a commuter, I am amazed at how individuals will cross the street without abandon. This means late at night,walking into the street with dark clothing on. While I do not belive that the poor driver of the automobile should be held responsible, nor should the walkers; the public pedestrian system needs work. Why is it that universities fail to realize that most students rely on their own feet to go from point A to point B? Is it because students will pay exorbitant prices to have a car on campus? Or because the average student now has access to a car? I believe that most schools will allow any student to have a car on campus because of the fees assessed. I realize that not all schools are as small as I was used to, but you would think that the safety of those students who pay upwards of $28,000 in tuition (well before parking) would have a representative for safety.

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  2. Paul said on November 11, 2003 at 12:47 am

    Dear Beth,

    It took the death of two world-famous scholars (in their fields) for IU to put up a traffic light on one of the three major streets that run through campus. Of course, many undergrads have died elsewhere over the decades, but whatever.

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  3. Bob said on November 11, 2003 at 8:21 am

    I cut no slack for people who drive too fast in areas of obvious hazard. Our excessively high urban speed limits and lack of traffic enforcement pander to the false sense of urgency that some people feel when driving.

    Areas around college campuses, schools, and other places with heavy pedestrian traffic should be posted with speed limits not higher than 20 miles per hour and well lighted, and the speed limits should be rigorously enforced. Being forced to slow down and drive sanely might cause some aggressive people anxiety, but it won’t often cause anyone physical pain or cost them money.

    On vacation in New England a couple of years ago, I saw that two or three states enforced their laws requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and in the towns, crosswalks were posted with signs informing drivers of that. I saw drivers complying apparently without rancor.

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  4. John Ritter said on November 11, 2003 at 9:12 am

    Connecticut drivers diligently yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, but God save their souls if one foot strays from the hash marks!

    New York drivers are in a hurry and Massachusetts drivers scare the shit out of me. Rhode Islanders are too busy trying to get a low numbered license plate to be bothered with actual driving.

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  5. ashley said on November 11, 2003 at 10:28 am

    Remember as a pedestrian that the laws of physics always usurp the laws of the state.

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  6. elaine said on November 11, 2003 at 10:37 am

    While vacationing in Vancouver, B.C. this past summer we were stunned to see drivers stop, without the demand of a stoplight, to allow pedestrians across a designated crosswalk. Here in Fort Wayne, I was almost run over in a crosswalk by a fire captain driving his department car (who was not enroute to a fire btw) because he was to lazy to look to his right as he turned the corner and because, hell, who in their right mind walks in Fort Wayne? If the my-automobile-and-I-always-come-first mindset is well-entrenched, as it is in the Fort, pedestrians will forever be at risk regardless of precautions taken.

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  7. Nance said on November 11, 2003 at 11:00 am

    Good comments, all. It’s generally assumed that drivers are the bad guys in this, but pedestrians have a responsibility, too. I don’t know why these two women doubled back into the path of this truck, but to me it tends to excuse the driver, who probably found them nearly invisible at that hour, in an underlit intersection, dressed the way they were. I crawl when I drive near campus, and yet still pedestrians step right out in front of me. It’s maddening. The worst is at a busy three-way intersection at the heart of the town/gown district. Everyone gets a turn, but you have to wait for your turn. I can’t tell you how often I’ve suppressed the urge to scream “THE RED HAND MEANS DON’T WALK” out the window at some jaywalking scofflaw.

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  8. Bob said on November 11, 2003 at 11:09 am

    John, I’ll admit that in Massachusetts, all my travel was rural. The biggest town I drove in was Stockbridge. I’ve heard frightening things about Boston drivers, and hope to never drive there. I’d like to visit, but if I do, I’ll take the train there and then use cabs, transit, and feet.

    Bicycling around Burlington, Vermont, the only impatient, belligerent driver I encountered was driving a black Lexus with NY plates.

    Same goes for New York state. I meandered a lot of countryside, and found it all amenable to civility. Everything went to hell, though, in cities like Rochester, where I thought the drivers were even more aggressive than in Fort Wayne. And New York City cabbies — some of them are terrifying even when you’re inside the cab.

    My experience in Canada was similar to Elaine’s; in a small town outside Calgary, Alberta, I set out for the Dairy Queen across a busy highway from my motel. As I approached the crosswalk, all traffic came to a halt. It took me completely by surprise. I’m sure the drivers knew by my hesitation and by the startled, bewildered look on my face that I was a Yank.

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  9. Paul said on November 11, 2003 at 2:24 pm

    Nancy, the driver in this instance is pretty much guiltless, I think, judging only on what we know. And legally the school probably is scot-free, as is of course the state. But this sort of accident is rendered more likely by the crossing’s lack of safety devices. Even in the absence of a controlling legal authority, well–there outta be a law.

    I could rant about America’s love affair with the automobile, but I won’t, because it’s pointless and you’ve heard it all before.

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  10. michael golden said on November 11, 2003 at 9:01 pm

    How could there be anything but low numbered plates in Rhode Islane?

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  11. John Ritter said on November 11, 2003 at 9:58 pm

    Rhode Island De-Mystified

    Rhode Island has had vanity plates for 30+ years now in the form of the owner’s two initials, a dash, and a number (i.e. our Nancy’s plate might read NN-432). The object of my neighbors to the east, is to get a low number plate for their initials (3 digits are better than 4, 2 digits better than 3), primarily for bragging rights (as if they had anything else to crow about). When renewing plates, they always inquire if a lower number is available. I don’t think that obit scanning done for this purpose as it is used in NYC for apartment hunting, but there is quite a bit of pride involved in this statewide (50 miles?) obsession. There was a road rage incident in the 90s involving a crossbow, but it wasn’t over a low number.

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  12. Howard said on November 11, 2003 at 10:06 pm

    Years ago my wife and I vacationed in Canada and one of the many striking differences we observed between Toronto and Montreal was that in the former, drivers seemed to read pedestrians’ thoughts. If a pedestrian contempled crossing the street in the middle of the block, cars would stop and wait for her/him to pass. In Montreal, however, if a pedestrian ventured into the street, crosswalk or not, the nearest vehicle would execute a brushback move by veering toward the pedestrian.

    Of course here in Columbus it used to be common to see Columbus’ Finest issue jaywalking citations to pedestrians who dared to allow their foot to drop into the crosswalk as the DO NOT WALK light began to flash.

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  13. michael golden said on November 12, 2003 at 9:21 am

    Life must be good in Rhode Island. Thanks.

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  14. John Ritter said on November 12, 2003 at 9:46 am

    Just a follow up about the 1994 crossbow incident. It was actually two Mass drivers involved and the crime was committed on I-95 in Mass, but the road rage/chase started in Rhode Island.

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  15. Michelle said on November 12, 2003 at 10:36 am

    One thing to remember about RI is that most natives have only one, at most two, degrees of separation from someone at the DMV who can get their requested plates. No need to check obits.

    Back at the paper I worked at there, we had a saying that all native RIers at some point in their lives benefited from their nativeness.

    Oh and the only place I know where cars regularly stop if someone steps into the crosswalk is hippy-dippy (in a good way) Northhampton, Mass.


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  16. Randy said on November 12, 2003 at 11:37 am

    Ashley said this better than I will, but when a pedestrian just steps off the curb with nor regard for the traffic coming at them, my reaction is “yes, I’ll be found at fault, but you’ll be found dead”…

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