Remember the girl hit by car while on Facetime? The driver just got charged.

crash site
Video screen capture Note: It's a crosswalk. With multiple "yield to pedestrian" signs.

Turns out he was doing 46 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone. But let's all blame the girl for distracted walking!

In August we wrote Driver in car hits 14 year old with right of way in crosswalk, and all they care about is the iPhone. Seriously, all anyone went on about was that it was her fault for FaceTiming. The post got an incredible 250 comments, many of which agreed. She became the poster child for the Distracted Walking crowd, blaming the victim for looking at her phone, her parents for not bringing her up properly.

It now turns out that the driver of the car, James H. Clark IV, was going 46 MPH in a 25 zone and not looking where he was going. According to the Inquirer:

Clark told police, according to charging documents, that he thought he was traveling no faster than 30 miles per hour. His two sons were in the car with him, and one of his sons was concerned that he was going to be late for a lesson at a rock-climbing gym, the documents said. Clark said he checked his watch and told his son the time and then saw “a flash of color in the left periphery of my vision. I slammed on my brakes and heard a collision.”

Kelly Williams suffered liver, kidney and spleen lacerations, fractures to her vertebrae, pelvis and leg, a dislocated shoulder, eye injuries, a concussion and abrasions. She also had not just stepped off the curb, as was alleged, but was half way across the intersection. She was thrown 120 feet.

Interestingly, there is not a peep about her distracted walking, her iPhone and FaceTime in any of the recent coverage. Instead, the District Attorney says:

This crash involving a speeding car and a girl crossing a street within a marked crosswalk happened right outside of a high school as teenagers were coming and going to sports tryouts, cheerleading practice and other activities that signal the beginning of the school year. Distracted driving and speed are a deadly combination. Drivers owe it to the community and to our young people to exercise extra caution and pay special attention to their surroundings in and around our schools.

Oh, wait; one website does mention the Facetime. The local CBS station says

Abington Township Police Chief John Livingood says the teen girl was FaceTiming with a friend who lives nearby when she walked right into the path of a car going south on Highland Avenue. “[Her friend] could actually see her,” Livingood said. “He was on the phone with her on FaceTime, and he saw the phone go flying up in the air, and heard the screaming.”

But as Roger Rudick of Streetsblog notes after the San Mateo Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling for a ban on walking and using a cellphone,

If someone is crossing the street with the right of way in a crosswalk, it doesn’t matter whether that person is texting, talking on the phone, picking their nose, or eating a bag of wasabi chickpeas -- it’s up to motorists to drive safely and stop.

Blaming Kelly Williams for distracted walking is all part of the Jaywalking 2.0 campaign, along with complaints about headphones, hoodies and dark clothing; It's all about shifting responsibility from drivers to walkers. It's why we are getting laws passed in Hawaii and now in California to ban texting while crossing the street; as noted by activists fighting the San Mateo resolution, quoted in Streetsblog:

"When data consistently show that speeding is a leading cause of crashes, victim-blaming is neither productive nor appropriate,” said Natalie Burdick, Outreach Director for Walk San Francisco. “Lawmakers should enact legislation (like automated speed enforcement) that has been proven to both calm traffic and reduce the likelihood of deadly crashes."

Or to my regular point that walking while distracted is very much like walking while old:

Elizabeth Stampe, a San Francisco-based advocate for sustainable transportation, agreed. “This is a misguided idea that criminalizes walking and removes responsibility from where it belongs. It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure his car -- the thousand-ton [sic] weapon he’s piloting -- doesn’t hit anyone. What about people who can’t see, who can’t look up at cars? By this logic, [crossing the street while] being blind would be a crime too.”

When Kelly Williams was hit, I complained that there was barely a peep about the fact that the driver mowed her down in the middle of a pedestrian crosswalk littered with warning signs. "You would think someone would mention this somewhere in the news. But distracted walking is the new jaywalking. No matter what the circumstances, it's never the drivers' fault." Interesting how that now the driver has been charged, there's barely a peep about distracted walking.

Tags: Philadelphia | Transportation

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