Reckless Driving and the Limits of Vision Zero

By Peter DePaolis

If you follow the news, you may have heard the story of a woman who struck a family crossing the street in New York and killed two small children and injured a pregnant woman. The accident itself spawned rage, but her actions following the crash furthered that aggression toward her. In a photograph, she was seen on the gurney, texting on her phone casually as if she had not just killed two small children.

The woman, Ms. Bruns is age 40 from Staten Island and has not been charged with a crime. Even the city’s mayor was disappointed that the woman had not been charged or even under arrest.

What is Vision Zero and How Does It Impact Washington, DC., Maryland, and VA?

Vision Zero might be in New York, but the project itself has spewed into nearby states, and many states are following New York’s lead to work to reduce the number of fatalities for pedestrians and motor vehicle passengers. Vision Zero focuses on a comprehensive effort around the city to use engineering, education, and enforcement so that they can reduce accidents. So far, New York City has seen a decrease in traffic fatalities, and they plan to continue the trend for 2018.

While Vision Zero’s plan has been useful, there are distinct limitations. The tragedy in New York last month shows the limits of that plan. Even though it has been largely successful, using speed cameras to reduce crashes and even the number of pedestrian deaths has increased by 32 percent, the automation used by Vision Zero has reduced one crucial factor: the number of physical police officers in the area.

A camera can detect a speeding driver, but there is not an officer nearby that could pull over that driver and see if there is an issue.

In the case of Ms. Bruns, she was speeding, but also suspected to suffer a seizure at the time of the accident. Had a physical officer been in the area, she may have been intercepted, and the accident never occurred.

Furthermore, Vision Zero puts more of the responsibility on citizens rather than legislature and law enforcement. Drivers are supposed to self-monitor, report, and be aware. While it does work, not having physical police presence or repercussions for accidents that take lives like the one mentioned above leaves gaping holes and opportunities for more incidents like this to occur in the future.

What Makes Pedestrian versus Automobile Accidents Prevalent?

Pedestrian versus automobile accidents often involves pedestrians unaware until they are struck by a motor vehicle. Most accidents are linked directly to negligent drivers – whether the driver was under the influence or utterly failed to take precautions to avoid striking a pedestrian. The most common causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  • Drivers failing to check crosswalks for pedestrians before passing through them.
  • A driver failing to stop at a red light or stop sign.
  • Texting or talking on a cellphone instead of watching the road.
  • A driver making a right-hand turn without looking for a pedestrian.
  • Speeding through an intersection.
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Medical conditions that render the driver unable to operate their motor vehicle safely.

Pedestrian versus Automobile Accidents are Catastrophic

The injuries associated with these accidents are severe. Often a victim will endure the consequences of that accident the rest of his or her life – whether that is from permanent disability, emotional trauma, or physical deformities.

Just some of the injuries seen in these catastrophic accidents include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries – A vehicle or airbag does not protect pedestrians; instead, they are exposed to everything surrounding them – including the car that strikes them. Therefore, it is no surprise that a common injury is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These can lead to permanent brain dysfunction and may be fatal.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries – Spinal cord injuries happen in sudden and catastrophic blows to the body. The spine may be fractured or dislocated, and the result can be permanent paralysis.
  • Fractures – Most pedestrians will endure some fracture – often multiple fractures. These fractures are treatable but can be expensive, time-consuming, and even leave a victim with long-term pain and suffering while they recover.
  • Soft Tissue Injuries – Soft tissues include muscles, ligaments, and joints. In an accident, a pedestrian could suffer from bruises, lacerations, dislocations, tears and severe sprains. This may leave them unable to work for months, require rehabilitation to regain function, and even require special treatments.
  • Amputations – In some cases, a victim could require amputation, or their limb is amputated at the scene from the impact.
  • Emotional Trauma – While it is easy to see the physical injuries, do not forget the emotional and mental toll an accident like this could cause to the victim. They may deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other emotional complications that stem from coping with serious, long-term injuries.
  • Death – The impact and weight of a motor vehicle put a pedestrian at high-risk for death. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that there were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities in 2013, and pedestrians are one of the few groups that have had an increase in traffic-related deaths over the years.

Protecting Yourself After a Motor Vehicle Accident

If you or a loved one is struck by a vehicle, regardless of whether that driver is charged criminally, you can make them liable for your injuries. The law allows you to seek compensation for your losses, including medical costs, pain, suffering, or the death of a loved one.

Hold them responsible even if law enforcement will not. Contact the attorneys at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP at one of our three convenient office locations or ask for more information online.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.