Crosswalk danger: Another pedestrian hit
Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on improved crosswalks may be helping make city streets safer, but it's small consolation to one downtown resident who was struck in a crosswalk on Monday morning, June 1, as she attempted to cross South Street.
Sixty-three-year-old Pat Craig was waiting on a sidewalk between Water and South streets around 8:20am, on her way home to subsidized apartment complex Midway Manor. Believing that cars in all directions at the five-way intersection of Ridge/Main/Water/South streets were stopped, Craig, using a cane and walking her 16-year-old poodle, Lady, says she started south across South Street. She didn't make it to the other side.
"I heard a roaring, then, boy, he whammed into me," she says, less than 30 minutes after the accident. Craig says she ended up on the hood of the car. Her dog was uninjured.
Although an ambulance arrived within minutes and her leg was "beginning to hurt," she declined emergency medical treatment and said a family member would take her to the hospital after she took her dog home.
The 17-year-old driver of the Subaru wagon that struck Craig says he was blinded by the sun as he passed through a green light at West Main and crossed over to South Street. As soon as he saw Craig in the middle of the intersection, "I slammed on the brakes," he says, but wasn't able to completely come to a stop until he'd already struck Craig.
"I was on the phone to police as I got out of the car," the visibly upset teen tells a reporter.
For police, this incident and others like it force interpretation of the laws regarding pedestrian and vehicle right-of-way.
In November 2007, a wheelchair-bound pedestrian was struck by an Albemarle County police cruiser as he crossed West Main Street. That case made headlines when police ticketed the pedestrian instead of the officer. Although the charge was eventually dropped, the situation stirred outrage and helped prompt the $700,000 pedestrian improvement plan.
This time, the driver was ticketed.
Craig admits she did not press the button to trigger a new pedestrian signal. The 20-second walk signal "doesn't give you time to get across," complains Craig, who chose instead to walk when she believed no cars were coming. Because she was "committed" to the crosswalk–- and had already made it halfway across when she was struck–- police believe she had the right of way.
"Pedestrians have the responsibility not to step out into oncoming traffic," says Sgt. L.A. Durrette, but "the motorist is supposed to have the responsibility of not hitting people in the street."
Durrette charged the driver with failure to yield to a pedestrian.
"He had time to see her in the crosswalk," Durrette says.