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Tom Shillue


A sad, scary truth about pedestrian safety

Jason Rantz says, pedestrians can't just pretend that they, too, aren't responsible for their safety. ( file photo)

A 12-year-old went through four hours of surgery and remains in the hospital after getting hit by a car while riding his bicycle just a few blocks away from his home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. This, after trying to help his friend who also was hit by a car only moments earlier. The 12-year-old’s mother is pleading for drivers to pay more attention so that they can avoid accidents like this in the future. The sad truth is, that’s not going to happen.

There’s absolutely no doubt that everyone could stand to pay more attention to the road, but the truth is, as scary as this is to admit, most drivers will still check their phones, they’ll still play with the radio, they’ll still talk to their passengers, and they’ll still put on makeup or eat a Dick’s burger. And nothing will change, not even after hearing to heartfelt plea of a worried mom, until that driver hits someone. We’ve become so A.D.D. that we’re unable to focus singularly on the drive; be it the long commute home or the quick drive around the neighborhood, we are constantly in need for extra stimulation.

Think about your own habits while driving. Most of us have had near misses with either other cars, or bicyclists or pedestrians. As a result, we become hypersensitive and alert… but that lasts for about ten minutes. I’ve had near misses in my nearly 15-year driving career and I’ll still get distracted from time to time while driving.

This isn’t to say not to be a mindful driver — you should be. But it is to say that pedestrians can’t just pretend that they, too, aren’t responsible for their safety.

Just last week, I saw a woman jet across Fairview Avenue without even looking both ways. I almost hit a bicyclist on Eastlake Avenue at night because I couldn’t see him (he didn’t have a light, any reflective gear nor a helmet) — and if I hit a bicyclist, because of my stance here, the Stranger would probably accuse me of premeditated murder (they already think I’m “intransigent” for pointing out SDOT doesn’t think about how their actions impact thousands of drivers in this city).

The good news: these types of incidents don’t happen very often. But this is a good reminder to both be a mindful driver… and a mindful pedestrian and bicyclist.

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