Second wheelchair pedestrian hit, ticketed

Did you hear about the wheelchair pedestrian who was hit by a motorist in a Charlottesville crosswalk and then ticketed? Yeah? Well, how about the second one? Just one month after a disabled artist was struck by an Albemarle County police officer and then ticketed, a second wheelchair pedestrian is telling a tale of woe.

On Friday afternoon, December 7, Deborah Hamlin was leaving an appointment at UVA hospital and heading west down Jefferson Park Avenue in her non-motorized wheelchair. She stopped at the intersection of Lee Street and JPA and waited to cross. Born with cerebral palsy, Hamlin also has a visual processing disability. Though she is not blind, she says, the disability makes it difficult or impossible to make out pedestrian signals.

As she waited, she says, two trucks stopped at the red light on Lee facing JPA. The truck in the middle, she says, saw her and motioned for her to cross in front of it. As she started into the crosswalk, however, the light turned green, and the truck that had been closest to her started forward with Hamlin right in front of the grill.

"It was a nightmare," says Hamlin, 44, whose first thought was to try to get onto the ground so the truck's chassis would go over her and spare her life.

"I read about a guy who survived a train by getting to the lowest part and letting it roll over him," she says. Somehow she succeeded in pushing out of her wheelchair and heard voices screaming for the driver to stop.

"I landed on the ground," she says. "I was partly under the truck when my fingers hit the ground." Within moments, she says, "there was a whole team of people that were there and tried to save me."

Hamlin, who works as a tutor, was placed on a backboard by emergency personnel and transported the two blocks to the UVA Emergency Room. Like Mitchell, however, her ordeal was not over.

While she was being treated in the ER for an injured shoulder, she says, Charlottesville Police Officer Charles W. Gardner arrived bearing more bad news: a ticket. He told her she'd entered the crosswalk when the pedestrian signal read "don't walk" and was therefore at fault.

"I was in such pain, and they were asking me these stupid questions," says Hamlin, who says the officer seemed apologetic when he handed her the summons.

If readers feel a sense of déjÆ?  vu, it's no wonder. The Hook's December 6 cover story detailed artist Gerry Mitchell's experience being hit in a crosswalk on West Main Street. Mitchell was crossing with a green light when Albemarle County Officer Gregory Charles Davis turned left off Fourth Street onto West Main Street and hit the back of Mitchell's chair, pitching him onto the pavement. Hours later, an officer ticketed Mitchell in the ER telling him he hadn't pushed the button to trigger the "walk" signal.

Pedestrian activist Kevin Cox believes the police ticketed Mitchell solely to protect Albemarle police from future liability and has demanded accountability.

"I want to know who in the city," said Cox last week, "thinks it's more important to protect Albemarle County from a lawsuit than it is to protect a victim of an inattentive driver."

He wonders now whether Hamlin's ticket was issued just to prove consistency, and notes that pedestrians are almost never cited in the city for failure to obey pedestrian signals. Only one such ticket was issued in 2006, and four have been issued this year, according to Lt. Dave Shifflett with Charlottesville Police.

Charlottesville Police Lt. L.A. Durrette, who responded to the Mitchell incident, says the decision to ticket Hamlin was "in no way" related to the decision to ticket Mitchell.

Still, despite Cox's doubts about recent police ticketing motives, Cox says there are important differences between the two cases. First, Cox believes the dump truck driver who struck Hamlin, Fred Lundmark of Ace's Trucking, had the right of way with a green light and a pedestrian in the crosswalk directly in front of him. Lundmark did not return the Hook's call.

Moreover, Cox believes Lundmark couldn't see Hamlin's chair, which was below his windshield. While he thinks police should have shown compassion by not ticketing Hamlin, Cox says he can understand the need to establish responsibility to protect the driver's insurance rates if the driver was not at fault. In Mitchell's case, Cox contends, the officer who hit him had violated the law that requires drivers to yield to pedestrians crossing the street they're turning onto.

Cox, whose wife is blind, says the biggest outrage in Hamlin's case is that a busy crosswalk near a hospital is ill-suited for pedestrians with disabilities.

"That intersection should be fixed to take into account that there are a huge number of people like [Hamlin] that use it," he says. Indeed, UVA has recently taken steps to protect pedestrians by embedding lights into the pavement at crosswalks along Emmet Street. Lights, however, aren't enough, says Cox, who believes more crosswalks should be equipped with audible walk signals for the visually impaired. Currently, only one downtown crosswalk– on East Market and Fourth Street NE– is equipped with sound.

Though her disabilities are lifelong, Hamlin says this is the first time she has been injured by a vehicle. While she relies entirely on the Jaunt transit service and cabs for long distance rides, for short distances her chair is her only choice. Getting around town is terrifying, she says, in part because her head is just four feet above the ground when she's in her chair, making it difficult for drivers to see her even when she has the right of way.

Hamlin's husband, Thomas Hamlin, says his wife is suffering from severe shoulder pain since the accident, and he's angry she was cited.

"I think it was very unfair," he says, "given the circumstances that she can't see very well."

Hamlin says pain and fear since the accident may further limit her mobility.

"I don't know if I'm going to be crossing streets anymore," she says.

Hamlin's case will be heard in Charlottesville District Court on January 22, 2008 at 9am.

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23 comments

None of the intersections that allow a right turn on red after stop are safe for pedestrians and other drivers, for that matter. Drivers tend to look in four different directions and look for cars traveling against the light. This is true whether it's a two-lane or four-lane interesection.

Dear Mrs. Hamlin,

I am so sorry to learn of your injuries received during the misfortune with the truck in the crosswalk. I hope you make a speedy and full recovery.

Unfortunately, your mishap occurred in the City of Charlottesville. The city that's becoming well known for police officers that frequently break one of the prime laws of humanity: Think twice; act once! Part of their growing fame is due in part to the fact that I have been making every news organization in the United States aware of the other crossing accident when Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis shamelessly assaulted Gerry Mitchell with his police cruiser. I know they appreciate my efforts and will one day thank me; especially if CNN carries the story. In the meantime, you probably already know Mr. Mitchell was also ticketed for being injured in a crosswalk, so don't feel as if you are being singled out in any way by the Charlottesville Police Department. Consistency, however, should not be confused as competency, or correct application of the waning trust the public has in their decisions.

Rest assured that any judge that has enough brain cells in his/her cranium, generating enough friction to formulate a thought, will toss the silly charge right out of the door. The Charlottesville Police Department could have saved you the trouble of a court appearance if they had not violated one of the aforementioned laws of humanity.

Most Sincerely,
Free Speech

quote >> "I've seen many police officers coast right through a red light while making a right turn..."

That's because they can't make it through green lights safely without running people over. :)

On a more serious note though, I thought I was the only one who noticed most of them very seldom come to a stop during a right turn on red.

Some bikers obey the traffic laws and it's my perception that most of them do and go unnoticed. The minority that run red lights, bike on the sidewalk and generally ignore the rules are much more visible. On Monday when I walk to work I'll count the bikes and record their behavior and I will bet right now that most will be in the bike lanes, stop for red lights and wear helmets. The scofflaws can do what they want because the police choose to ignore them most of the time.

I have had trouble with one biker in particular who insisted on riding on the sidewalk, even when there was a bike lane available. He'd come up behind me and pass me while going too fast for the sidewalk. It was a crash waiting to happen. I yelled at him several times and now I see him riding in the bike lane.

One other thing...It may be just as well that the police do ignore bike violators if they can't handle the situation without going nuts like they're filming an episode of COPS for Fox.

Same here, Kevin. I travel Market Street and Water Street at least 5 or 6 times a day. Countless times pedestrians have rushed into the crosswalks and left me with very little stopping distance in a 7,800 pound SUV. I can't stop on a dime like a 2,000 pound Toyota can. 25% of them don't even look right or left before rushing into the crosswalks. Another 25% look and still step out in front of cars.

Another gripe I have on local streets is bicycles. They want motorists to share the road with them, but they pay NO attention to traffic laws whatsoever. At an intersection they will pass all the cars on the right and go to the front of the line. When the traffic light turns green the entire line of cars is now held up by a bicycle going 5 mph. If they decide to stop for the red light that is. Most cyclists pass all the cars on the right and go straight through red lights. I've even watched cops on bicycles ride the sidewalks more often than not on all the side streets surrounding the downtown mall, Market Street and Water Street. They also pay no attention to traffic lights because they are using the sidewalks and crosswalks between sidewalks.

The handful of you that posted on this issue will probably not agree with my opinion, but I feel obligated to throw in my two cents worth.

I regularly walk and cross Downtown City streets and do not feel threatened or scared to do so. The problem is with pedestrians walking into streets with out first determining if it is safe to do so, or basing their decision on a driver's misguided waive at a multiple lane road. I looked up Va Code 46.2-924, and although I concede that pedestrians have the right-a-way in most circumstances (exception being if they have a don't walk signal), the code states, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.¢Ã¢â??¬

If pedestrians would simply use some common sense and exert a little patience, many of these accidents would not happen. I find, especially in the Downtown area, that pedestrians walk right out in front of you with out warning and many without even looking. A little additional due caution by pedestrians would go a long way in making pedestrian travels safer.

The City has many pending sidewalk and issues ADA and the consideration of audible signals is a great idea and should be prioritized and placed amongst these existing issues.

My words of wisdom: Exert some patience, look left, look right, and look left again before crossing, and although you may have the right-a-way, realize that a vehicle is going to win in a collision every time! USE SOME COMMON SENSE PEOPLE!

quotes >> "....The scofflaws can do what they want because the police choose to ignore them most of the time..... One other thing¢Ã¢â??¬ŠIt may be just as well that the police do ignore bike violators if they can't handle the situation without going nuts like they're filming an episode of COPS for Fox...."

Excellent points! And sadly enough they're true.

In defense of the officers working such accidents, they are going to place charges based on the statutory right-of-way laws and it up to the appropriate court of law to determine if the offender is guilty or not.. All parties have the right to pursue civil legal remedies against the other driver if they decide to do so. This issue is not about the decisions of Police Officers working such accidents but is instead about the legal culpability of the involved the parties; which will be determined by a court of law. As previously stated, the City has some work to do on the addressing problems with crosswalks, but let's not jump to conclusions and crucify the officers for enforcing the law.

I wonder if this is the same Fred Lundmark that sued Albemarle cop Gary Pistulka for several alleged wrongdoings back around 1996 or 1997? If so, I doubt he has much love for cops.

Hey, don't take the police word for it. Check it out. I'd be surprised if there has really been a single ticket issued for jaywalking in the city before the mitchell case in 10 years. Seriously. Go to the clerk's office and check. If there was, by some fluke, I bet you'll find some wierd circumstances/reason for it ala Mitchell.

Charlottesville is practically begging for the DOJ Department of Civil Rights, Special Litigation Section to come to town and sue them. Other cities have lost big time when they came in, personally I can't wait for it to happen here and Charlottesville has to put in sidewalks where they don't have them and curb cuts and all those accomodations world class cities in the U.S. have had for many years.

Mr. Cox has it right about the lack of pedestrian safety around town. Another problem is the pedestrian traffic lights are invisible to drivers and they can not be aware of when pedestrians are supposed to be crossing. There is no time at most intersections in town that only pedestrians can proceed and not vehicles. But, in a town that refuses to reduce the speed limit on Monticello Road to 25 mph in the residential portion, I can only agree with you that "...the main goal is to move vehicles as quickly as possible."

I would certainly be delighted to see Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis and his callous assault on Gerry Mitchell investigated by the DOJ. While attempting to get Oprah Winfrey, CNN and any news outlet that will listen to cover the story, I will add DOJ.

Anyone following this atrocity: Tell everyone!

Mr. Wetmore,
Thanks a lot for joining this thread.

I recieved an email this morning from the City Manager promising me that he would take a look at the intersection of Lee St. and JPA. That's not much, but it's a start.

I know of no plans at this time to install APS at any intersection in Charlottesville. I think only one intersection does have an audible signal.

Please email the City Manager and share with him your insights. His email, listed on the city's page, is cityman@charlottesville.org.

Cordially,
Kevin Cox

The police did a jaywalking enforcement thing at University & 14th a couple years ago after the new walk/don't walk countdown signs went in. They ticketed a bunch of people.

Free Speech, why are you going after the Alb. officer and not the city one who wrote the ticket? That story about injuring his arm sounds spurious. Didn't he apologize and try to help the dude, or was *that* story spurious?

Kevin Cox is probably right-on about the tickets being a lawsuit protection thing. I hope the judge mocks it out of court.

Word: plead not guilty! Last time I was in traffic court this woman plead guilty to 95 in a 65, with no attorney. She probably did not even know about the $2000 civil assessment coming her way.

It's not just traffic lights that need to change.

In fact, if there isn't a change in the attitudes of everyone, both pedestrians and drivers , changes in signs and lights aren't going to make much difference at all. Right now people ACT as though pedestrians really have no rights and can cross the street only when drivers let them or are not present at all. When I'm driving and I slow down and wave a pedestrian across the street they frequently run across the street like scared rabbits. Many times this same person who is now running, just got out of their car and became a pedestrian. When they were in their car it's very likely that their attitude about pedestrians was the same; pedestrians only have the rights I as a driver let them have. It's amazing really, because many of the same people will say, incorrectly, that "pedestrians always have the right of way." but they don't act like that when they're driving or walking. It's not true that pedestrians always have the right of way but I have heard it said over and over again, especially this past week.

Some people who move to Charlottesville tell me that pedestrians get a lot more respect in the city or country they moved from then they do in Charlottesville. People learn how drivers and pedestrians interface locally and adapt. Peoples attitudes and behaviors even change within various parts of Charlottesville. A driver will slow down and approach the Mall crossing or the crosswalks at the Corner with great caution but then the same driver will never stop for someone trying to cross Market Street or Cherry Avenue at Tonsler Park. If all drivers treated all pedestrians the way most drivers treat pedestrians when crossing the Downtown Mall Charlottesville's streets would be much safer and much more pedestrian friendly. I think that the most important place for this change to take place is in the local police departments.

Two things crossed my mind when I read this.

First, does the city or county have any plans to install Access ible Pedestrian Signals (APS), so that someone with low vision will have an audible cue as to when the Walk signal is on? For a discussion of what is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), including a look at the Barden v. Sacramento case, see Episode 138 of my tv series, Perils For Pedestrians:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6783218059010695745

I would try to have the ticket dismissed on the grounds that the pedestrian signal was not accessible to the pedestrian, as required by the ADA.

Second, there is a problem with the design of large vehicles where the driver cannot see a short pedestrian crossing in front of them (a child, someone in a wheelchair, etc.). US truck mirror standards are strictly for seeing other motor vehicles, not for seeing pedestrians. Compare them with the mirrors on school buses. The Europeans are way ahead of the US on pedestrian-friendly standards for truck mirrors, car crash testing for pedestrians, etc. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not demonstrated any interest in following the European pedestrian-friendly standards.

The lack of APS at the intersection, combined with the lack of visibility created by the truck design, almost guaranteed that this type of crash would happen sooner or later.

colfer,
A number of people were ticketed at 14th and University/West Main before the countdown lights went in. I think that this was a single officer who made the decision to write tickets. I don't recall a similar effort after the lights were installed but you may be correct. The countdown lights have only made a small difference. Cars can still turn across West Main/University Avenue when pedestrians are crossing and they frequently do it and force pedestrians to stop or get out of the way.
Cordially,
Kevin Cox

It's not just careless pedestrians that make the streets dangerous. Both drivers and pedestrian are sometimes too assertive, too timid, too careless, too rude and too reckless. Changes in infrastructure, policing and the behavior of drivers and pedestrians are all part of the solution.

I don't step out in front of cars when they would have to slam on the brakes but I do cross the street when I see a car approaching but I know that they have plenty of stopping time. Cars are controlled by drivers who have access to a brake. Sometimes though, I do wonder if some of the cars in Charlottesville are so cheap that a brake pedal is an option the buyer didn't select when they bought it.

I share your frustation with people who step out in front of cars when they shouldn't. On Market St. a woman with a small child tried to step out in front of me. I was doing about 20 mph and was no more than 10 feet from the crosswalk when she started to walk in front of me. I swerved to miss them because there was absolutely no time for me to stop. As I passed her I heard her say to the child, "He should have stopped".

Golfer,
The law is confusing. It also says that drivers must always yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Wouldn't it have made sense to have charged both parties and leave it up to a judge to sort out? Instead only one party was charged, suggesting that the person who decided to charge Mr. Mitchell decided who was responsible for the accident.

Cville Eye,
Right turn on red after stop should be eliminated at almost all the intersections in Charlottesville. Actually since most drivers don't stop at all and just slow down enough to make the right turn it has become "right on red no stopping required". I've seen many police officers coast right through a red light while making a right turn while I stood on the sidewalk waiting to cross. The intersection at JPA and Lee where the accident this thread is about has right turn on red and it does make it much more dangerous and difficult to use.

This particular accident wasn't caused by a vehicle turning right. I believe that it could have been prevented though, if the intersection was set up with the safety of the pedestrians that use it in mind. Instead, I believe that like most intersection layouts and traffic light patterns the main goal is to move vehicles as quickly as possible. Pedestrian safety appears to be a secondary consideration if it's given any consideration at all.

Cordially,
Kevin Cox

Dear Mrs. Hamlin

Not that I have any evidence that a Charlottesville Police Officer can read, or even write an intelligent sentence, but you would think someone from the department might get involved and post verbiage here. Perhaps they would first suggest some compassion for your injuries?

I do! I'm so sorry and I, and others are working diligently so the officers don't cowardly hide behind the enormous butts of their departments.

Cheers,
Free Speech

On another topic: Hunting Accidents

I'm beginning to believe the Charlottesville Police Department would charge the victim in a hunting accident as being in the way of the bullet.

¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??Sir you did not yield the right-of-way to the bullet, therefore, you are responsible for the injuries that you incurred when you stepped into the path of the oncoming bullet.¢Ã¢â??¬

¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??Sir, you were not in the bullet crosswalk, with an illuminated sign, after pushing the appropriate button on the sign. Therefore, any Charlottesville Police Department Officer has the right to mow you down and shoot you without and worries of liabilities or responsibility.¢Ã¢â??¬

We as citizens either choose to accept the retarded minutiae from our tax supported po-lice department, or we can stand up to them and tell them just how sorry we feel their actions are hurting those that they are supposed to serve.

Citizens: Stand up to this callous Charlottesville Police Department!!!

Stand up to a department that does not issue a ticket to one of their own: Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis who callously struck down Gerry Mitchell in a crosswalk.

Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis who callously struck down Gerry Mitchell in a crosswalk.

Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis who callously struck down Gerry Mitchell in a crosswalk.

Albemarle County Police Officer Gregory C. Davis who callously struck down Gerry Mitchell in a crosswalk.