Home > Complete Streets, Crank, Cultural Movement, Editorial, Safety Issues, Transportation Education > People present are an environmental condition: Slow down!

People present are an environmental condition: Slow down!




A few mornings ago, during the normal coffee & perusal of the news, two separate news items inspired the above tweet.  The specific news incidents aren’t as important as the pattern of passivity by law enforcement across the state of Michigan.

I don’t seek out these news reports (9&10). Actually, readers send the gory stories my way figuring I’m a sucker for them–true. The pattern emerging from these reports is that when a person walking is seriously maimed or killed by a driver who “didn’t see them“(REagle), was “blinded by the sun“, was where “the streetlights weren’t working” (Fox), or simply “couldn’t stop in time“(RE) the norm seems to be not to issue a citation.

The slightest fender bender typically involves one-person or another getting a citation, but when a woman crossing the street with an 18-month old gets hit and her daughter dies, the police simply shrug their shoulders and let the person who hit them go (Freep). Some police reports even suggest blame on the person on foot for activities like listening to music (Tuscola).

Fox News Screen Grab

It is not just with people on foot where the callousness is on display. Just over a year ago, James Sawicki was stuck and killed while riding his bicycle (Fox) on the shoulder of a Sterling Heights road. A driver with a record reached for something on the floor as she approached him. She then veered off the road, slamming into him and he died…she walked clean without charges. The Sterling Heights police lieutenant’s response,”there was a brand new sidewalk just installed about 15 feet from where he was riding.” (T-MI)

What gives?

I get it. We don’t have strict liability (MyWHaT) in this state. As well, each case is unique and news reports often don’t tell the entire story. Typically, what we end up reading is only as good as the police reports, which themselves are often written with little understanding of the pedestrian’s perspective.

Still, it is difficult to believe that people are throwing themselves willy-nilly in front of speeding cars. More likely, people are driving too fast in places where they need to expect pedestrians and to expect the unexpected. Driving where people are present is like driving on ice, in a snowstorm or heavy fog–the conditions demand that we take extra caution.

Michigan’s “What Every Driver Must Know” (MI.Gov-PDF) emphasizes extra care around pedestrians.

Officers, claiming they have no legal means to cite someone ignore the law on their side:

Driving too fast for conditions.

What’s your take?

Are you offended by news/police reports of people being maimed or killed with no citations being issued?

Thank you for slowing down when pedestrians are present.   

NOTE: This mini-rant was originally posted February 13, 2012 and reposted again on December 11 because of the recent death in Green Lake Township (RE). Again, person on foot hit by car and no fault for the person driving a 2-ton steel pod. The perspective isn’t just a Michigan thing, this week Toronto had 9 7 pedestrians hit within 45 minutes (UC). The response by officials, “one of the common things we’ve been hearing from drivers is, ‘We didn’t see them.'” 

* The title was changed from “pedestrians present” to “people present…”




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  1. February 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I think it’s crazy that you don’t get charged for killing or hitting a pedestrian in most cases. When you treat pedestrians as if they don’t have a right to be in the traffic mix you ensure that accidents like this will keep on happening.

  2. LCM
    February 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

    While running yesterday on the side of East Shore Rd (and listening to music) there were almost as many people on foot/bike as driving cars. Several couples felt comfortable enough to walk side by side on the road and one was pushing a stroller. It reminded me of the Central Park Loop. When cars passed by they usually slowed down, waved and gave lots of room which was nice but, as proven above, is not the norm. Do you want to be my guest for a meeting on Wednesday from 10-noon for a panel discussion with law enforcement officers regarding Distracted Driving & Attitudes of Drivers? Any luck with TB3 sponsorship?

  3. JohnRobertWilliams
    February 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Where are the “Right to Life” shouts and protests over this? An average of 93 people are killed every day in the USA in motor vehicle mayhem. Severe penalties MUST be implemented. First, if a driver has a crash…. their license is taken away….death and manslaughter or murder charges MUST be applied, too……violent death knows no difference between a gun or car death. It’s a crime AGAINST humanity that drivers are not faulted EVERY time. If a huge boulder was in the road and was hit…it’s never the driver’s fault…someone blames the rock….but its the lack of “driving skill” and too much speed, every single time, that is the source of the crash. The price society pays for allowing morons to have a license….sigh……

  4. February 13, 2012 at 10:33 am

    OMG. Just reading this sent chills over my body and has sent me into a fit of rage and frustration. I know these things happen, but to have them listed out all in one article is a pretty powerful statement of where our transportation and legal systems has evolved to…but greater than that, our culture. I am sure accidentally killing someone is probably punishment enough.

    The solution will require digging way deeper than the rights of the roads. We’ve been fed the drug of speed for so long. Bigger, faster, better. What can we do to slow things down, to reduce the urgency for speed? I can’t help but think it’s tied to our currency. Is it flowing too fast or too slow? I can’t help but think maybe the drivers thoughts are, “If I don’t get to my job / meeting / appointment /etc, on time, I will die….therefore, as a matter of survival, it is irrelevant who I kill along the way.”

    I find it curious, the extremely different reactions of drivers who get stuck in the traffic jams caused by Critical Masses (massive group rides.) Some drivers relax into it, surrendering to the fact that there are hundreds of bicyclists in their way and that they might as well throw a fat smile on their face and enjoy the show.

    Other drivers feel it is the end of the world that they cannot quickly drive through the streets as initially planned. Some of these drivers are so swept up with their expectations to get somewhere fast, I have seen them literally think “I am car, no kids on bikes will get in my way….if I just drive over them, it will be like they don’t exist.”

    This reminds me of stories like Rachel Corrie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie) …some “higher ups” give orders to destroy something, irregardless if human life is destroyed in the process. Carrying out these orders is essential to one’s livelihood. It’s a case of, “beat or be beaten.”

    Who are the “higher ups” here? Who is it injecting us with the anxiety for speed that destroys awareness?

  5. February 13, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I was sticking to Michigan crashes and crashes that somehow were flagged over the past year, but the poster-child for this type of incident nationally was the case of a mom in Georgia being convicted for vehicular homicide for walking across the road with her child to access a bus-stop(S.Blog).

    The story reflected not only the occasional insane application of laws, but also the more common indifference shown to people in the design of our streets (Grist) and raises the civil rights question within our transportation system (Wired).

  6. Marya
    February 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Yes, I’m outraged. Thanks for raising the issue and keeping it raised until society turns and takes note.

  7. February 14, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Wow, I had no idea. Those statistics are sobering. Is there any way to create local legislation for pedestrian rights even if it isn’t State law? Are there any examples of this being done elsewhere in the US?

  8. February 14, 2012 at 7:28 am

    You can create the local legislation. Traverse City joined Ann Arbor last fall strengthening the crosswalk ordinance. State law only calls for people in cars not to hit pedestrians *(not the exact wording) and the two cities now call for stops at crosswalks when pedestrians are present. We need follow through in education and enforcement to make that ordinance relevant, but it is on the books. The City Planning Department is interested in working with people who want to help educate the public, as well as the police force, on this issue…email: Missy Luick, mluick@ci.traverse-city.mi.us

    *Michigan Motor Vehicle Code Section (MMVC) 257.612 (ii) states: …The vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

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