The Journal Gazette
Sunday, August 18, 2019 1:00 am


Consequences of inattention deadly serious for non-drivers

Dan Swartz shared a sobering message with his Facebook friends last week. “I could have easily killed someone today,” he wrote. “A little girl (5-7-year-old?) bolted in front of my car today while I was driving through the '07.”

If he had been texting, speeding or “anything other than scanning the space in front of me and anticipating a little kid being totally irrational,” he might have struck and killed her, the founder of Wunderkammer Company wrote.

Swartz's message is especially timely for back-to-school week, when special emphasis was placed on observing school bus stop-arm regulations. Three Fulton County siblings died last October when they were struck by a driver who failed to stop as the children crossed a state highway to board a bus. The General Assembly passed enhanced penalties for stop-arm violations.

Not all students ride buses, however. Some walk, ride bikes or climb out of cars to walk the last steps to school or home. And they aren't the only ones on the road – adult pedestrians, bicyclists and runners also cross paths with vehicles. The region's growing trail system adds miles of safe new routes for travel and fitness, but also draws more bicyclists and pedestrians to local streets and roads en route to the trails.

With major street construction underway in what seems to be every part of the community, travel time is growing. A commute that once took 10 minutes might now have doubled in length – increasing motorist frustration and the temptation to drive faster or slip through intersections on a yellow light.

Indiana crash statistics from 2017, the most recent available from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, show 1,624 traffic collisions involving a pedestrian or bicyclist. Of those, 104 pedestrians and 10 cyclists were killed. The collisions were attributed to the motorist in 51% of the accidents, according to the report.

Blame doesn't really matter, however. If you're speeding through an intersection or cutting through a quiet neighborhood to save a few minutes, a collision will cost you far more time than you might have saved.

A bright yellow school bus should always be an effective reminder of the need to drive safely, but neither a school bus nor the threat of enhanced penalties for passing a stopped bus should be required as a cue to watch for pedestrians and cyclists.

“I could have easily killed someone today” ought to do the trick.

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