Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hit and run rips off the scabs

This morning I happened to drive a different way to work. Getting off SR 500 at Andresen was backed up and I soon saw why. Police had cordoned off the intersection of Andresen and Fourth Plain and were allowing traffic through just north and south bound.
Closer, I saw all the numbered markers and paint markings on the road. I know from experience that when there is a crash, they typically don't do this if there is not some type of suspected criminal element involved. "Just an 'accident'" (even if it involves death) does not warrant this level of attention to detail.
Immediately, with my heart sinking into my stomach which then shriveled into a hard, tight, nauseous feeling knot, I thought, "oh, no, not another hit and run." I pulled into the McDonald's parking lot just to the south of the intersection to calm down. But instead, I just felt more sick because at the back of the lot was a big Suburban surrounded by police and police tape.

A man in the parking lot told me there had been a hit and run. Another hit and run...which of course is what I expected to hear. And the white Suburban was the suspected vehicle involved.

It is hard to explain how hearing of more tragedy, and especially with witnessing some of the aftermath, can bring all of the devastating feelings up again front and center. Grief, rage, despair, helplessness. Rage. Helplessness. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Wanting to cry and wail and scream and break things. Wanting to sink to the ground in a puddle of tears. Feelings are weird, how they can make you feel like collapsing and raging at the same time.

But I am not only the mother of a young man taken out way ahead of his time, I am an activist. I am an active activist who is outraged and sickened by the continuing devastation on our roads and especially by the morally-corrupt people who can leave another human being dead and/or dying on the road alone.

So, I approached the KGW news crew on scene. I told them why I was crying and how I was not just your average onlooker at the scene of a crash. Naturally, I made my story interesting enough that I ended up being interviewed (should be on the Channel 8 at noon). Just coincidentally I had all my activist presentation materials in the car because I hadn't taken them out after going to the Portland Transportation Town Halls recently. So they took some pictures of these items, too (except the bike, I didn't take it out).

And I did of course talk about Medina Alert, the program out of Denver to quickly get information regarding hit-and-runs out to the public for help solving them.

I hope, I hope, I hope that somehow, some way we can stop these preventable tragedies from devastating more lives, that we can not let anyone callous enough to leave a person like roadkill get away with it if we know about it, that we can get consequences that fit the crime into place. I know that good people sometimes do bad things, like hitting someone while texting/talking or driving impaired or just not giving driving the serious attention it deserves, but a person is no longer a good person when they leave. They are cruel, inhumane, selfish, despicable, and disgusting. And apparently they are all around us and we don't even have a clue. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Everyone's a Pedestrian...even if you don't know it

I eat, sleep, and breathe traffic safety. Not only do I try to influence others to change their driving behaviors and habits to better protect everyone on the roads, but I really, really try hard to be the best that I can be, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.

Two weeks ago I attended my second Portland Transportation Safety Town Hall. I set up my display - Dustin's bike and a presentation board of pictures, police reports, newspaper articles, etc. - for the local residents and other interested parties. There was lots of audience participation that night, including my pitch that if we all obey the traffic safety rules, show courtesy, and drive for the conditions, we would save lives and there would be more money and resources for other things (just think what the 15 or so officers involved in Dustin's fatal collision could have been doing instead).

As I packed up my display afterward, a woman approached. She wanted me to know that she nearly hit me with her car before the meeting started. She said, "You were jaywalking and are wearing dark clothing. I was not speeding. I checked to make sure; I wasn't speeding."

When I got to the meeting, I parallel parked across the street. I lifted Dustin's bike up onto my shoulder, checked to make sure no cars were coming, and started across the street. Then a car turned onto the road behind me and I hurried to get out of the way.

When this woman called me a jaywalker in dark clothing, I felt instant shame. And confusion, too. I was wearing dark clothing. I did cross the street in the middle of the block. I did not consciously think of myself as a pedestrian at the time because I simply walked from my car, crossed the street and went into the building. It didn't dawn on me to walk the 40 or 50 feet back to the intersection, cross there, then walk another 40/50 feet to get to where I ended up crossing directly from the car. It wasn't a matter of being lazy or making a decision that I didn't want to carry that heavy, awkward bike any farther than I had to. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. It was so natural, it was almost unconscious.

This was not a busy street. It was a side street with businesses that ended in a cul-de-sac. It was 6:30 p.m., dark, and the only traffic was going to the same place I was going. Because I was early, there wasn't even much of that.

Being called a jaywalker really jarred me. I felt like a failure, a fraud trying to get people to do what I couldn't even do myself. If I can't learn, how can I expect anyone else to? Plus...add in confusion. Initially I didn't even perceive that I'd done anything wrong. Then I didn't really think I had done anything everyone else wouldn't have done.

Should I have put on reflective or light clothing to walk such a short distance? Should I have gone 100 feet out of my way to cross a little traveled road at the intersection? I suppose I should have. But this means that if I want to visit my neighbor across the street, I should walk about 2 blocks to the intersection and cross there, then do the same on the way back, essentially walking 8 blocks just to get to my neighbor whose front door is 150 feet from mine.

I still haven't come to terms with this. And being as dedicated to traffic safety as I am - eating, sleeping, breathing it - this incident knocked me down. Literally. I spent the next day in bed crying off and on. Overreaction? Craziness?