Thursday, May 21, 2009

Father and Son Struck By Driver in SUV at MLK Crosswalk

A 4 year old boy is in Critical Condition at Children's Hospital after a man and a child on his tandem in the crosswalk at MLK Drive was struck by a driver in an SUV at the approach to the Spring Garden Street ramp.

Photo - Breen Goodwin

From 6ABC -
PHILADELPHIA - May 21, 2009 (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Police are on the scene of an accident involving a man and his young son.

The accident occurred around 9:50 this morning on the inbound ramp to Martin Luther King Drive, just before the Benjamin Franklin Parkway merge.

A 29-year-old man and his 4-year-old son were riding their bike, crossing the street in the crosswalk. A vehicle approached, saw the two crossing and stopped. However, a second vehicle behind the first went around the stopped vehicle, hitting the father and son.


The Bicycle Coalition has been very concerned about the road and crosswalk conditions on MLK Drive. We have noted in previous posts (here, here, here and here) that speeding on MLK and Kelly Drives present a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians. BCGP has been working with the Streets Department to add measures to the crossing area and we expect that improvements will begin in a few weeks. Specifically, they will be installing "Yield to pedestrian" signs and will be narrowing the outbound travel lane. They are also planning to install a next generation flashing pedestrian warning beacons at the crossing (the bidding and contract process is expected to take about a year).

However, the real problem is the need to reduce vehicular speeds on MLK Drive. Options include soft rumble strips before the crossing in both lanes, Driver Feedback Signs (Your Speed) on the Drive and Police enforcement of the speed limit.

We hope to work with the city to implement these measures.


Daniel W. said...

This is such a sad story. Drivers in this city are so impatient and pass on the right without regard. I've been passed on the right while stopped at a red light. People in this city are unbelievable! I hope the child and Father are safe now and the driver is jailed for attempted manslaughter.

Andy B from Jersey said...

That whole area is engineered to maximize automobile speeds. As such we shouldn't be surprised when such things happen.

Also, crossings that require pedestrian to cross two lanes of same direction traffic can be very dangerous. The one driver stops, screens the view of pedestrians (cyclists) to the second driver and then all of a surprise to both the driver and the pedestrian, BAM!! I believe this is what may have happened here.

High-speed, freeway style traffic engineering has no place in urban environments where cyclists and pedestrian are present.

Dan said...

I think that having a crosswalk in this location is a very bad idea. It sounds like the crosswalk itself was partly responsible for the accident. No drivers expect the car in front of them to stop in that location. The second car may have been startled by the car in front of them stopping and swerved to avoid the stopped car.

Recently a lane shift was created in this area, It is possible that this may have contributed to the accident since drivers have to pay attention to the shifting lanes instead of paying attention to pedestrians crossing the road. I have seen cars nearly run into each other quite a few times where the lanes shift.

The two lanes of eastbound traffic have been around far longer than the crosswalk. Prior the creation of the trail along the river very few people crossed at that location. There was no reason to create a pedestrian friendly road system at this location.

Pedestrians and cyclists should wait for the road to be clear before crossing. I've crossed there for years without a crosswalk and have never had any problems. This rider should not have attempted to cross unless it was possible to get to the other side before the traffic got to the crosswalk. Crossing here with a four year old and expecting/requiring that two lanes come to a complete stop in order to cross safely is irresponsible. I think that crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security and encourage passivity. This may also contributed to this unfortunate accident.

Additional signs and rumble strips will create additional distractions to drivers and increase the danger to pedestrians. I believe that there some research in Britain that has shown that minimizing signage increases driver, pedestrian, and cyclist safety.

Taggart said...

This is no "accident". It's a possible manslaughter, and aside from poor design, it was driver impatience, lack of control, improper use of their legal weapon (I mean car), that resulted in this. We need ot start considering that act of a driver running down a biker manslaughter, which is what it is, and then it will stop happening as people become more aware and more cautious with their 2000+ pound weapons. Check out the def of manslaughter:

Constructive Manslaughter
Constructive manslaughter is also referred to as ‘unlawful act’ manslaughter. It is based on the doctrine of constructive malice, whereby the malicious intent inherent in the commission of a crime is considered to apply to the consequences of that crime. It occurs when someone kills, without intent, in the course of committing an unlawful act. The malice involved in the crime is transferred to the killing, resulting in a charge of manslaughter.

For example, if a person throws a brick off a bridge into vehicular traffic below they could be found to intend or be reckless as to assault or criminal damage (see DPP v Newbury[2]). There is no intent to kill, and a resulting death would not be considered murder, but would be considered involuntary manslaughter. The accused's responsibility for causing death is constructed from the fault in committing what might have been a minor criminal act.

Dan said...

I think that instead of relying on punitive measures to discourage driver carelessness, we should focus efforts on finding a safe way for people to get from the Schuykill River Trail to the westbound side of MLK Drive. The individuals who designed and approved this crosswalk share responsibility for this accident. Most crosswalks are at intersections and drivers generally do not expect to see them in other locations. A crosswalk, like this one, that is in the middle of the block and that crosses two lanes of busy traffic is going to be dangerous even in the best circumstances.

It might be helpful to paint pedestrian crossing signs on the road surface a 100 yards or so away from the crosswalk. It would have to be repainted periodically but it would let people know that a pedestrian crossing is ahead. The road surface on the bridge crossing the Schuykill is in pretty bad shape and drivers might not notice rumble strips.

Is there anyway of dropping down from the MLK Drive Trail to the River Trail near the newly constructed ADA ramp? That would be a much safer alternative to the crosswalk.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. It's the father's and/or the crosswalk's fault, not the woman who broke the law. If I approach a traffic signal that is not discernible due to sun glare and simply proceed through and strike a pedestrian crossing legally because I had a red light do I get to fault the sun? The people who designed and installed the traffic light? The pedestrian for crossing during a time of sun glare?

If she couldn't see whether someone was in the crosswalk--which crosswalk is clearly indicated by signs--she should not have proceeded through it. It's that simple.

Looks like another case of "My hurry is more important than the lives of others."

Dan said...

"If she couldn't see whether someone was in the crosswalk--which crosswalk is clearly indicated by signs--she should not have proceeded through it."

The problem is that the crosswalk is not clearly marked. Eastbound drivers should be informed before they cross the bridge that there is a crosswalk ahead. Instead they cannot see the signs for the crosswalk until they have crossed the bridge. At the point where the signs are finally visible to motorists, the lanes shift and the motorists then concentrate on staying in their lane instead of paying attention to pedestrians.

"Yeah. It's the father's and/or the crosswalk's fault, not the woman who broke the law."

Yes, the father and the designer of the crosswalk are partially responsible for the accident. Only the driver is perhaps, legally responsible for the accident but the father should have waited until the road was clear of traffic before trying to cross the road. I have crossed here dozens of times without the benefit of a crosswalk and never had a problem. The reason why I never have a problem is that I wait for the traffic to clear before attempting to cross. It is very unwise to cross a road in a way that depends on other users to alter their behavior.

I think that is important to remember that it is not just drivers who make mistakes and violate traffic laws. I see bike riders every day who risk injuring pedestrians by riding the wrong way on one way streets, carelessly running stop signs and red lights, and riding on the wrong side of the road.

Dan Pohlig said...

I agree with the commenter above who said this was not an "accident." I think at least a little pressure should be put on our local news sources by this blog and others to change their nomenclature when reporting on stories like this. The driver made a choice to go around the stopped car. Doesn't seem like an "accident" to me.

matt said...

was the driver on a cell phone too? the design is a problem, but it really comes down to the driver. there is a long thread of letters on relative to this type of "accidents" written by bob mionske (sp?). good reading, maybe the da should read them too.