When people walk into the street, whether within a crosswalk or just obliviously darting out into the street midway down the block, the presumption that you always hear people voicing is that the pedestrian has the right-of-way.
That’s more or less true, though there are exceptions to that.
When I see people walking out into traffic without looking, or while looking; looking dead on at a car with a smugness that implies, ‘What you gonna do about it? I have the right-of-way?” Or with a slight glance and an assumption that you’re going to stop…
Or when I see people walking along a poorly lit road in dark clothing with no reflective *anything* to alert drivers of their presence…
I get mad. And it’s not just because they’ve startled me or caused me to slow down or swerve or slam on my brakes to keep me from hitting their bodies with my moving vehicle, though that is part of it.
I’m mad at people who think their arrogance is going to keep them unharmed. Because it’s “against the law” to hit them with my car.
Let me tell you about my brother.
He was a lot of things, and one of those things was frequently drunk.
But by god, the guy was a stickler about following traffic lights. I remember this from when I was little and it never changed. He could be so drunk that his breath could start a fire and the dude would still make sure to cross with the light.
In September of 2012, my brother who was then 58 years old was crossing the street when he was struck by a car going upwards of around 50mph by a driver who was distracted. The driver wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t texting, he was distracted by the news of his first grandchild being born just down the road from where he hit my brother with his Chevy.
My brother was in the crosswalk crossing with the light. My brother, alert the media, was doing everything right…other than drinking enough to breathe fire.
My brother’s body was struck by a full-sized car, the front end of it crushing into his legs, tossing his body up against the windshield and up into the air, quickly landing behind where the car had come to a stop and crashing onto the pavement, broken and bleeding.
His right scapula was displaced and shattered.
Both of his legs were broken in multiple places, one badly enough to need surgery relocate the bones back to a reasonable position and the wound had to be left open for quite some time due to the swelling and, of course, this open wound became infected more than once even in an ultra-sterile environment.
One of my brother’s eye sockets was shattered. One of his hands was busted, they presumed this was from putting it out defensively in a futile attempt to shield himself.
He had massive head injuries. Massive intracranial bleeding because that’s what happens when you’re struck by a car going upwards of around 50 mph, thrown into the air and ultimately crash limply to the ground, your skull bounding off the concrete.
He spent several weeks in a coma. They weren’t sure if he’d wake up.
My brother did eventually wake up and still spent quite some time on a ventilator, and once they removed him from the machine, he had no ability to speak. He had forgotten how. It had literally been knocked right out of him.
Weeks later, he began to, with the help of occupational therapy, put words together to form sentences and he slowly began to understand language better.
He got well enough to alert us to the fact that he had lost the last 40-45 years of his life because he thought he would eventually be going home to an address he hadn’t lived at with my parents since the 1960s.
He got well enough to painfully grieve every time he would ask how our sister was only to find out she had died 16 years prior. This went on for days until I instructed people to just reply with “she’s doing fine,” until maybe he regained some recollection.
He got well enough to try to escape the care center that was ill-staffed and make it halfway down the road with his walker. This would have been a very slow escape, this is how poorly they were staffed…
He started to piece little bits together mentally. The brain is an incredible thing, really. He would rattle off a sentence with words I still have to look up to spell on occasion, but he wouldn’t remember that we just went to the store. Or to his niece’s wedding. Or that I had even been there to visit.
My brother was no longer able to live completely on his own, though you couldn’t tell him that. He should have spent his remaining years at the adult foster home he had transferred to after the care center, but he missed the trailer parked in our mother’s driveway, and he missed our mother. He didn’t like living with strangers. So he moved back.
My brother never walked again without the use of a walker as he couldn’t feel his feet and parts of his left leg. And he had lost a great deal of the strength he once had as a man who worked manual labor jobs outdoors. He spent a lot of time in pain and would exclaim, “Hey, this is weird…my back is killing me and my leg is, too. Oh! Yeah, I got hit by a car, did you know that?”
I sometimes wonder if it was better that he was so “goofy” when he ultimately ended up with cancer a few years later because I hoped that maybe his constant forgetfulness might have helped forget some of the uglier parts of dying. And I often wonder at the same time if his broken brain caused him to be more afraid when everything was going on. If it was that more frustrating for him because he couldn’t quite understand why he couldn’t just go home and watch T.V. in his trailer or in the house with his mother. He told me he felt guilty because he wasn’t there to keep an eye on her.
So these are all the things I think about when I see people crossing the street when cars are coming, both the ones that stare me down or the ones who maybe give me a cursory glance but keep walking before I even slow down because “it’s against the law for me to hit them.”