Two children were struck and killed by an unlicensed driver while crossing a busy, five-lane road with their babysitter on a Thursday night. The babysitter suffered injuries, while the children, ages 10 and five, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities are investigating the tragedy, which involved a 20-year-old driver who struck all three pedestrians crossing near an intersection (but not in it). There is a traffic signal but no pedestrian crosswalk at that intersection. The speed limit on Fairview Road, where the fatal crash occurred, is 45 mph, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. The driver was arrested on the scene for not having a valid state driver’s license and for driving with no operator’s license. Still, investigators say it is unlikely he will face additional charges. There is no indication he was speeding or under the influence of drug or alcohol. Furthermore evidence indicates the driver’s traffic light was green at the time he proceeded through the intersection. He struck the trio shortly after passing through it, investigators believe.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released in May, there were 4,884 pedestrians killed and 65,000 injured nationally in traffic crashes in 2014. On average, that meant a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes. A quarter of these occurred from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. – which is precisely when this incident happened. The babysitter, whom family describe as “like a grandmother” to the children, was walking them to a local Subway restaurant in a nearby plaza to get some dinner.
This horrific incident calls to mind a 2014 study conducted by Smart Growth America called Dangerous by Design. Essentially, the premise is that we – particularly those of us in the South – are grappling with a legacy of roadways that do not account for the safety of people who are on foot. From 2003 to 2012, there were more than 47,000 people who were killed in pedestrian accidents. That is 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters in the U.S. during that same window of time. Another 676,000 were injured. Yet we have no urgency about this problem because they are simply chalked up to being “accidents,” as if there was no way to prevent them. We invest nowhere near the kind of money in pedestrian safety that we do to protect people from distracted driving, drunk driving, inadequate seat belt use, and unsafe vehicle design. This is despite the fact that pedestrian accident victims represent 15 percent of all people killed in traffic crashes.
The Sunbelt communities that grew rapidly during the postwar period top the list of the most dangerous regions. While the newest Dangerous by Design report is slated to come out this month, the previous report, which looked at 2014 statistics, found that the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord metro region ranked No. 10 in the nation for Pedestrian Danger Index (out of 51). There were a total of 254 pedestrian deaths in this region between 2003 and 2012. A total of 1.5 percent of people commute by foot in this area (higher in areas like Asheville and parts of Charlotte, where there are universities), and there are 1.65 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people. Raleigh ranked No. 16.
The problem in these areas starts with transportation planning and engineering, particularly of arterial roads. The whole purpose of arterial roads is to move car traffic along with minimal delay over long distances. They are built to be flat and wide and serve the purpose of fast motor vehicle travel. The problem is these arterial roads have become our community “Main Streets.” They are surrounded by apartment complexes, office parks, and shopping centers. Unless these individuals are traveling by vehicle, they are putting themselves at grave risk just to run basic errands.
As far as liability in a case like the recent crash in Asheville, it will be difficult because the driver was unlicensed, probably not insured, and also, as the evidence seems to suggest, likely not at fault. It may be possible to take some legal action for wrongful death against the babysitter. Alternatively, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage held by the parents might have covered the children (which it could, even if they weren’t in a motor vehicle at the time of the collision).
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
APD: No further charges in deaths of children crossing road, Dec. 5, 2016, By Mackensy Lunsford, The Asheville Citizen-Times
More Blog Entries:
Report: Distracted Driver Fatalities on the Rise, Dec. 9, 2016, Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog