Friday, January 30, 2009

Comment on my sad post

Mr Orta, Thank you for posting your comment on my blog. While I appreciate your opinions the views expressed on my blog are my opinions and I stand by them. Let me answer a couple of your questions and make a few comments of my own. My answers are in purple.

Just happened upon your blog entry while searching for more posts on this story. As Director of Community Education for PEDS, metro Atlanta's pedestrian advocacy organization, please allow me to chime in.

Sad, yes. But before you blame the victims, consider this: All the news reports emphasize that they "were not in a crosswalk" but none of them mention how far away the nearest crosswalk is. It's 1055 feet away. That's nearly 1/4 mile. So to get to the bus stop AND use the crosswalk would require nearly a 1/2 detour (the distance of about 7 football fields). Would you do that with 4 children in tow? Yes I would and I know a lot of other mothers who would do the exact same thing. If I knew that the safest way to cross the street was at the crosswalk I would go that distance to do so to protect my children. That is my responsibility and it is common sense. As a child I was always taught to cross at the crosswalk, look both ways and hold hands as we cross. We constantly teach our children not to dart out in traffic and crossing where there is no crosswalk is the same thing.

Further, today's article uses the word "dart" to describe how they were crossing the road. "Dart" suggests a rapid, dashing, possibly haphazard movement. Yet, there is no evidence warrant the use of that biased word. Sure, some people dash across the street, but I doubt one could "dart" with 4 kids. My understanding is that she crossed to the center turn lane and waited there for a car to pass. She saw a gap in traffic and attempted to finish crossing. Mr. Orta, I see people "dart" out in traffic nearly everyday. Have you traveled down Godby Rd in College Park or Old National Hwy in College Park? Have you had to miss someone walking out in traffic wearing all black at 5:30 in the morning. As the director of PEDS maybe you have already been there. If you have, do you think it's safe for them to cross the way they do? Most of the people crossing Godby Rd do not dart based on your definition, they just walk out in front of cars coming. It is a very dangerous road to be traveling on. I have seen children that look to be no older than 6 or 7 doing this by themself. I stop, but what if the car behind me doesn't.

What about the driver? The crash occurred at 6:15am just before sunrise. I've heard claims that the driver's lights were not on. Was the driver on a cell phone or otherwise distracted? Was the driver speeding? Pedestrians hit at 40mph have an 85% chance of being killed. Pedestrians hit at 30mph have about a 50-50 chance of survival. Hit at just 20mph, 95% of pedestrians survive. So clearly, speed helped determine the chance of fatality in this case. Do you know how fast the driver was going? I haven't seen an article to determine that fact. Do you know what the posted speed limit is on that road? I could only find where it was 45 and 55 MPH. I also haven't seen anything that states in fact that the driver's lights were not on. The driver was not charged by the police in the accident so they obviously found no wrong doing on the drivers part. I don't understand how you can tell me not to blame the victim, but then turn around and start blaming the driver.

PEDS has urged Cobb County and other jurisdictions to install small pedestrian refuge islands at transit locations on multi-lane roads like South Cobb Drive. They're not "crosswalks" but simply islands of concrete that allow pedestrians to cross busy streets in two stages and have a safe place to wait in the middle. It's shameful that transportation agencies have failed to provide safe crossings for pedestrians, even at the most obvious spots: bus stops. Yes I agree that there should be safe ways to cross streets. I am no expert, but to me the safest way I know is a crosswalk at a light or stop sign even if you have to walk a distance to get to it. We have been fighting with the city of College Park and the city of Atlanta for 5 years now trying to get a light and a crosswalk put up at our intersection. Both refuse to do it. The city of Atlanta says its College Park and the city of College Park says its Atlanta.

Lastly (I know this is getting long), you mention "jaywalking." Jaywalking is not a crime. It’s not even mentioned in the Georgia code. In fact, crossing the street outside of a crosswalk is perfectly legal in most locations. According to Georgia code 40-6-92(a), pedestrians who cross at any point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk must “yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway unless they have already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway.” The law does NOT prohibit pedestrians from crossing the street outside a crosswalk. It simply requires pedestrians to yield to traffic when doing so. In my opinion the law should prohibit people from crossing anywhere other than a crosswalk.

Section 40-6-92(c) of the Georgia code does make it illegal for pedestrians to cross outside a marked crosswalk, but only “between *adjacent* intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation.” That applies only in downtown areas or other dense activity centers where every intersection has a light. However, most intersections in metro Atlanta are not controlled by traffic signals. They’re controlled by stop signs. Think of all the side streets that intersect with major roads like South Cobb Drive or Jimmy Carter Blvd. Those are all intersections not controlled by traffic signals. Crossing between them is legal. It might not be very safe, but as long as pedestrians enter the roadway without darting in front of a nearby car and yield to drivers in all lanes, crossing is legal.

Hope that helps clarify the incident a little. Thanks!
Michael Orta

I do appreciate Mr. Orta's opinion. I feel sorry for all parties that were involved. This is something that the driver will have to live with for the rest of their life. I am sure they will always think about all of the what ifs. My point is that we as parents have a responsibility to keep our children safe. If that means we have to walk 7 football fields in order to do it, then so be it. As the mother of a 15, 5 and 6 year old I know how it is to sometimes want to take the easy way out (crossing where it's convenient to me and not to them), but I would rather have to drag my screaming, complaining, nagging kids to the closet intersection to cross the street than have to worry about them getting hurt as I drag them across a busy road. I'm sure trying to cross the street with 4 kids is a lot harder than trying to cross the street with 1 or 2 kids, but again there is no easy way out in this parenting business.
It all comes down to parents having to take responsibility for their actions. Looking to the driver to take fault doesn't make up for the mother crossing the road with no regard for her children's safety. They want the public to feel sorry for her.
I don't know what went on in her head. I'm not her and I wasn't there. I feel sorry for her because she lost a child. It was an accident that could have been prevented if she had taken the time to walk 7 football fields further to the nearest intersection.

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