It happens to me at least a thousand times a week. I’m driving down the street and some pedestrian walks out into my path without looking to see if the way is clear, impacting traffic. People have to slow down to give the jaywalker or the jaywalkers the right of way. I’ve actually seen people walking across the street without impacting the flow of traffic slow down or change their direction so that they would slow traffic down. And when it happens chances are good I’ll curse the jaywalker’s mother. If the dumb-ass son-ova-bitch had any sense of self preservation for their lives they wouldn’t take such chances with their well being.
Yes it’s true the pedestrian has the right of way and traffic has to yield. But what if the person driving the car didn’t care about the person crossing the street or didn’t see the person crossing the street or couldn’t stop from hitting the person crossing the street? What if the person was old and didn’t have the reflexes to respond to somebody walking in front of their path? What if the person looked away for a brief second to change a radio station and didn’t look up in time to hit the brakes? What if the person driving two tons of life ending metal, glass, and plastic simply doesn’t care enough about life to do anything to keep from hitting the person in the middle of the street? What if a lot of things happen? A person stepping in front of a moving vehicle will make a lot of assumptions about what could happen. A smart person wouldn’t be so cavalier with his or her health, let alone the health of his or her child.
But things happen. People get lax. People can go their whole life without ever having a close encounter with a moving vehicle. The driver always stops or turns or does whatever to keep the walker safe. Nobody in their circle of friends, family, or associates has ever been hit by a vehicle. You’d have to be pretty unlucky to get hit by a car these days. And if it does happen, there’s always the courts to set things right. We can always sue for damages. But people forget, even if the man behind the wheel is Daddy Warbucks himself and despite a vast amount of wealth hires the most incompetent lawyers to defend him in a lawsuit, no amount of money can replace a shattered spine or a broken neck or a loss of life. The best bet is to avoid an accident if at all possible. How many times have I thought to myself that people who cross streets in front of cars take their lives in their own hands?
Not too long ago the misses and I passed an accident involving a car and a pedestrian. It must’ve happened just minutes, if not seconds, before. Totally focused on getting by I had to rely on the misses to tell me what had happened or was happening. In the middle of the street, practically right next to the double yellow divider line of a four lane street, a young woman laid in the middle of the street. Several people standing around her were on their cell phones. People on the sidewalk had stopped to gawk. Drivers were slowing down to take a good look. The young woman was crying, lying on her side in the street totally blocking one lane of traffic on the direction we were traveling. A driverless car was stopped in front of the woman, but we had no clue if the car was involved in whatever happened or was just rendering aid. There was no crosswalk and traffic was pretty heavy. It was a major artery through the city. What the hell was she doing crossing the street right there? No respect for traffic and no respect for her own life.
This is the experience I initially thought of when I heard the story of Raquel Nelson, the black woman in Georgia whose four year old son was hit by a van and killed as she tried to lead her family across a street. The driver, Jerry Guy, didn’t stop. When authorities were able to find him, he had admitted to consuming alcohol earlier that very day as well as taken painkillers, no doubt the kind with the warning label on the side saying don’t operate any vehicles while under the drug’s influence. Mr. Guy had two previous hit and run convictions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail. But the grieving mother, with two other children to raise and to help through the loss of their brother, was facing three years in jail for her contribution to the situation that led to her son’s death. Ms. Nelson was convicted of second degree vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and the failure to use a crosswalk. We don’t think she pushed her son in front of the vehicle. Why would a grieving mother who just lost her son face a three year prison sentence while the hit and run driver potentially under the influence who actually hit her son only get six months?
Like the accident the misses and I partially witnessed a few months back, the two of us don’t know much of what actually happened in Atlanta, other than what we learned from the news. Does anybody really think that the mother is a clear and present danger to society, more so than a potentially impaired driver with a history of hit and runs? I doubt it.
Unfortunately, it appears that this is just another case of the heavy hand of law being applied in a way that resembles another bitch slap to a black person. A black woman loses her son to a hit and run driver and all the district attorney can see is a criminal, not a grieving mother.
It is kind of like the time the police killed Tarika Wilson while she was holding her one year old son. The police broker into her home looking for her suspected drug dealing boyfriend who was not in the house. A bunch of people break down her door, I imagine she ran to protect her baby. But the police that shot her didn’t see a black mother holding a baby. He didn’t even see a baby. All he saw was a black criminal and pulled his trigger. And as a reward for his service to the community, for snuffing out the life of a black woman holding a baby, the police officer was acquitted of any crime. Good thing for him we have a lot more compassion for police who kill black people than we have for a black woman trying to cross a street.
I can’t stand jaywalkers who thoughtlessly wander into coming cars. I really think we do ourselves a disservice when we let people carelessly walk into traffic at the drop of a hat. But I don’t think the answer is to wait until a mother loses a child and threaten her with years in prison to show how seriously we belatedly take this issue. When I see a woman who has made a mistake that has resulted in the loss of her child, I no longer see a jaywalker but instead I’m happy to say that I have enough compassion to see a grieving mother who will spend the rest of her life thinking if only she did something differently. And if we honestly believe that jaywalking is akin to second degree vehicular manslaughter then maybe we should be arresting jaywalking people for attempted murder and/or suicide and/or something that would really discourage this dangerous, life threatening behavior.