Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The "Blind Spot" Excuse in Pesestrian Death

In last Thursday's Asbury Park Press there was an article about what is being done to help prevent further pedestrian fatalities on Chambers Bridge Road in Brick Township (See "Officials to work at making a Brick road intersection safer" at the bottom of this entry in its entirety). For those of you who may not be familiar with this issue, there have been 4 fatalities along this road in the last 2 years. While in the other crashes the pedestrians were reported to be at fault, in this latest crash the pedestrian was crossing at a crosswalk, with the green / walk signal. In essence, the pedestrian was doing everything right and yet she was still hit and killed.

That said, the most profound tidbit was found further down from the headline. Quote:

Investigators are still trying to sort out the details of the accident, (Sgt. Donald)
Ling said. There have been no charges filed in the crash, he said. "That's not to say there won't be charges," Ling said. "We have to look at a lot of factors. Was the driver's view obstructed either by the design of the van or another vehicle?"

Now look, I know you can't trust what you always read in the papers and it can be really easy to make judgments from afar when not all the facts are available and maybe this officer was misquoted. I will also give the driver the benefit of the doubt that he/she was driving in a non-aggressive manner and had honestly made a mistake. However last I remember, failure to not account for sight obstructions due to the design of ones vehicle or other vehicles on the road was not an excuse to violate another's right of way on the road and cause an accident.

If this crash HAD NOT involved a pedestrian being hit and killed and was only instead a fender bender caused by "
the driver's view obstructed either by the design of the van or another vehicle," it seems doubtful that charges would still be pending. Let's just hope that the Brick PD are simply being thorough and "dotting their 'i's and crossing their 't's" with this very serious incident.

Officials to work at making a Brick road intersection safer
Asbury Park PressThursday, July 31, 2008

Staff Writer

Another fatality at Chambers Bridge Road and Ovation Way has township officials planning to huddle with Ocean County engineers to determine what can be done to make the intersection safer.

Christine Wirth, 78, became the crossing's latest victim July 21 as she attempted to navigate what has become the township's deadliest intersection on her motorized scooter. A left-turning van, driven by Ronald R. Caroselli, 69, of Lakewood, struck her as she was halfway across the four-lane roadway, said Sgt. Donald Ling of the police department's traffic-safety unit.

At the Forge Pond Apartments, there was both shock and sadness at Wirth's death. Friends said a physical therapist showed up at her apartment July 22 for a previously scheduled appointment, only to learn of her death.

"She was a wonderful lady," said Terri Phillips. "She was my mother's best friend. I guess I knew her for almost 20 years. She was a big part of the community here, always talking to people. Always so lively. She will be missed."

Last year, three people were killed as they tried to cross Chambers Bridge Road, but unlike Wirth, they all were crossing illegally. In Wirth's case, she was in the crosswalk and the traffic signal was in her favor, police said. But that same signal was also green for the left-turning van, police said.

Investigators are still trying to sort out the details of the accident, Ling said. There have been no charges filed in the crash, he said.

"That's not to say there won't be charges," Ling said. "We have to look at a lot of factors. Was the driver's view obstructed either by the design of the van or another vehicle?"

Phillips said she'd be surprised if Wirth had been careless.

"She was always so careful with that scooter," she said. "It was relatively new, and she had just had a new battery put in. She went everywhere with that, but she was always so careful."

For the township, the accident has forced another look at what police said is the highest pedestrian-volume intersection in the community.

Flanked by the Brick Township Housing Authority's Forge Pond Apartments on one side, and a shopping plaza and the U.S. Post Office on the other, this part of Chambers Bridge Road has become a dangerous area that is regularly crossed by the residents of the 266-unit assisted-living apartments. The age-restricted housing has many elderly residents, none younger than 62 years old, according to the housing authority.

"It's an area where people have to be extra-cautious," Ling said. "You have a lot of older residents crossing, and many have physical infirmities."

The township made the area a priority last year and teamed with county engineers to try and eliminate safety hazards there, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said.

Among the improvements were the installation of a fence along Chambers Bridge Road designed to keep people from trying to walk across and avoid the crosswalks, officials said.

Jersey Central Power & Light also installed an additional 15 street lights in the area and equipped them with high-intensity bulbs that doubled the area's lighting, Acropolis said.

"All of the obvious things have been addressed at this location," Ocean County Engineer Frank Scarantino said. "Between Brick and ourselves, we've done all of those things."

Now engineers will do an in-depth analysis of this particular accident to see if there is something else that could be corrected, Scarantino said. Among the options that could be explored are the timing sequence of the lights at the crossing.

One option that Acropolis wants explored is the possibility of an "all-red intersection," which would keep the traffic signals red for vehicles in all directions when the crosswalk is being used.

"It's been used in other areas," he said. "It might be what is needed here."

The county has already installed "talking crosswalk" signals that assist pedestrians, Ling said. Those mechanisms trigger an audible signal when pushed to cross. The signals tell a pedestrian to wait or walk. When there is 17 seconds of crossing time left before a light's due to change, it begins a countdown to assist those trying to cross, Ling said.

Among the suggestions that probably won't happen is a pedestrian overpass, Acropolis said.

It's an option that was explored, but because of the engineering requirements, the best spot would be a half-mile away from the shopping centers, he said.

A crossing guard for peak hours is also an option, the mayor said.

"We're not stopping," Acropolis added. "We want to be sure we have done everything possible to make this intersection as safe as possible."

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