Mom Charged With Vehicular Homicide For Crossing Street After Kid Killed By Hit-and-Run


Image credit Transportation for America.

I have been trying to write something punchier than David Goldberg at Transportation for America did but I cannot, this event is "so utterly outrageous, so emblematic of the failure of our current transportation system," that I cannot find words to describe it.

Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide because she crossed a five lane highway in Atlanta to get to her home after being let off at a bus stop. The nearest traffic light was half a mile down the road, so she crossed, and her four year old son was hit by a drunk and drugged driver. (His third hit and run). Goldberg is outraged:

That's right: Because Nelson did not lug her exhausted little ones three-tenths of a mile from the bus stop to a traffic signal in order to cross five lanes of traffic, she is guilty of vehicular manslaughter. Because she did as her fellow bus riders, who crossed at the same time and place, and because she did what pedestrians will do every time - take the shortest reasonable path - she is guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed - even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes - prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?

It is the same in suburbs everywhere; streets that are too wide, cars that drive too fast, cyclists and pedestrians who try to co-exist and don't have a chance. Because as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says,

Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

Yup, it's their own fault for crossing the road and trying to get home. Their own fault for not owning a car. When in fact, Raquel Nelson is, as David Goldberg notes, a "victim of poor planning and bad design."

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Tags: Atlanta | Urban Planning

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