Driver in Car Hits 14 Year Old With Right of Way in Crosswalk, and All They Care About Is the iPhone

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crash site

It's almost like there is a concerted campaign to turn distracted walking into a serious problem.

There was a serious crash recently near Philadelphia; a fourteen year old girl was crossing a street in a crosswalk, in a school zone, with signs posted on posts and tent signs all over the place saying that pedestrians have right of way. There are no trees, no obstructions, no reason whatsoever that the driver couldn't see that there was a pedestrian.

But if you look at the videos from the local TV stations, there is only one thing that matters: SHE WAS DISTRACTED BY FACETIME! From WVPI-TV, under the headline Girl chatting on FaceTime struck and critically injured by car in Abington

A teenage girl remains hospitalized in critical condition after witnesses say she walked in front of a moving car while engaged in a video chat on her mobile phone. According to witnesses, the 14-year-old victim was looking at her phone and engaged in a video chat - a practice commonly known as FaceTiming, after Apple's popular video chat program, FaceTime - when she stepped into the street and was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

Sign at crash site

Sign at intersection where crash happened/Video screen capture

Commenters are all on board with this.

I think that victim blaming is appropriate. According to the report, it is clear that the girl walked into oncoming traffic and was engaged in the video chat. She clearly has culpability here.

Of course, there is another way to look at this story. Not once, in either news story or in comments, does anyone even bother mentioning the fact that she had right of way, and was in a very well signed crosswalk telling drivers to yield to pedestrians. According to NBC,

Witnesses told investigators the girl was chatting via FaceTime on her phone when she stepped off the sidewalk and directly into the path of a SUV traveling south on Highland Avenue. The driver was unable to stop in time and struck the girl, knocking her unconscious.

But again, it's a crosswalk, it is 2:45 in the afternoon, surely as the driver approaches, they are looking to see if someone is there. That's what you do in school zones and pedestrian crosswalks. And again, it is the careful use of passive voice and giving the car agency: the headline isn't "Driver hits facetiming 14 year old" because that would implicate him or her in the whole thing.

Now we all tell our kids to look both ways when crossing the street, and not to look at phones. But everyone here is just so convinced that the kid is so totally at fault. Had she been daydreaming, had she been blind, had she been old with bad hearing and eyesight, it might not have even made the evening news. Instead, it just becomes part of the continuing campaign to shift the burden of responsibility from drivers to pedestrians.

I am not saying that the kid wasn't dumb for facetiming while crossing the street; pedestrians have to be aware that drivers will blow through intersections at any time. But it doesn't absolve the driver; mowing down pedestrians in the middle of a crosswalk is wrong. 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.