In the last there days, Monday through Wednesday, at least four people died when struck by car drivers, and two others were injured. I know that the Sacramento Bee does not report all pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries, so there may have been more in the region, but this is an incredible level of slaughter.
The SacBee articles so far are:
- Midtown Sacramento cyclist seriously injured in collision with city garbage truck (SacBee 2013-10-23)
- Sacramento cyclist killed after swerving in front of SUV (SacBee 2013-10-22); Cyclist killed in Monday accident in south Sacramento identified (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- 3 dead, 1 injured in separate pedestrian accidents in Sacramento area (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Girl struck by car while walking to school in south Sacramento (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Man killed in auto-pedestrian accident in north Sacramento (SacBee 2013-10-22);Man killed in auto-pedestrian accident in north Sacramento identified (SacBee 2013-10-23)
- Elderly Sacramento woman killed in auto-pedestrian accident (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Woman killed in hit and run accident in Elk Grove (SacBee 2013-10-22); Woman killed in Elk Grove hit and run accident identified (SacBee 2013-10-23)
The better of these articles describe the outcome and location in a factual manner. The poorer ones place the blame on the victim. This victim blaming is aided and abetted by the law enforcement officers who make the assumption that either a) it was a “tragic accident” that could not have been prevented or b) the driver was not drunk and remained at the scene, so clearly it is the pedestrian or bicyclist’s fault. Both are nonsensical statements and ideas.
a. There are no “tragic accidents,” there are crashes caused by one or more parties. I don’t know which party was at fault, because none of the articles provides that information, and an investigation may not even reveal the truth, but law enforcement officers, many of them, are all too happy to assume that the pedestrian or bicyclist was at fault. It fits their world view that drivers are rarely to blame for anything that happens unless they are drunk, and pedestrians and bicyclists really shouldn’t have been there on the roadway to begin with. Unlike most people who spend some time every day in a motor vehicle, law enforcement officers spend nearly all their time in a motor vehicle, and that informs their world view.
b. When a driver remains at the scene, that is a good thing. There is an epidemic of hit-and-run in the United States, and some parts of California are especially hard hit (pun intended). But it does not mean that they weren’t at fault. In the second article above, the title is “Sacramento cyclist killed after swerving in front of SUV.” So far as can be determined from the article, there were no other witnesses. That leaves two witnesses, one of whom is dead. The other witness claims that the bicyclist swerved. So the law enforcement officer and the reporter both assume that this is correct, even though no investigation has yet been done to determine what actually happened.
The location in two of the articles was described by law enforcement officers as “the collision happened near an uncontrolled intersection and there were no crosswalks in the area.” The officer should know better than to make this statement. There are always crosswalks at intersections, sometimes painted and sometimes not painted. That’s what the California Vehicle Code says. To say there was no crosswalk at an intersection is just not factual. And why were there “no crosswalks” in the area anyway? Was it because the county engineers cheaped the project and decided not to paint crosswalks? Is it because the engineers designed a roadway with no intersections for safe crossings for long distances, such that pedestrians feel no choice but to cross at what seems to be the safest location?
There is a lot more to the story that what shows up in these brief Sacto 9-1-1 articles. Unfortunately law enforcement and the reporters almost never go deeper, and so the public is left with the impression that the slaughter of pedestrians and bicyclist is just an unavoidable byproduct of our driving culture. I strongly disagree. These deaths diminish us all, and make Sacramento a less safe, less welcoming, less livable community. Why do we accept these at all? We need to do whatever it takes to stop pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.
I’ve written before and will write again about the solutions, but for now, I’m just expressing my horror that this happens, and that we never really question it.