The tragic death of a 6-year-old Jacksonville girl, hit by a car while she was in a pedestrian crosswalk, has sparked calls for justice. The attorney for the family of this young child wants to know why the driver of the truck that killed the girl wasn’t charged in the accident. And he wants changes in the law to correct what he calls dangerous, but common, misperceptions about crosswalks.
Reconstructing the Accident
According to the Florida Times Union, on December 21, 2009, the young girl, her mother and her 5-year-old brother were crossing San Jose at Kori Road and were only halfway to the median when the light at the intersection changed. All three were hit by a truck whose driver was not cited in the accident. The 6-year-old girl was killed; her brother was not injured, but her mother’s leg and some ribs were broken. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has declined comment on this story.
This is a sad story about the senseless death of a small child. Our prayers and sympathy go out to the family as they try to recover from this tragedy.
The Law Protects Pedestrians
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 16.8% of all traffic fatalities in 2008 were pedestrians. 500 pedestrians were killed in pedestrian accidents on Florida highways in 2008. More than half (308) were killed while crossing a street. While not all those fatalities involved pedestrians in crosswalks, the law is clear that all motorists must yield to pedestrians regardless. According to the Florida Driver’s Handbook, it is “the motorist’s responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with pedestrians” (Section 3.6).
The family’s attorney says pedestrians in crosswalks are in danger because of confusion not only about right-of-way but also of how crosswalk buttons function. He says most people think pushing the button at a crosswalk causes the traffic lights to cycle. This is wrong. He says pushing the button instead serves to extend the cycle, giving pedestrians more time to cross the street. In the case of this young girl, the button was not pushed, so the green light was much shorter and the family got caught in the middle of the street.
The Issues in this Case
What can be done to correct the problems at crosswalks? Many people complain that light cycles are too fast for pedestrian traffic.
What can be done to strengthen the law providing protection for pedestrians?
Why does law enforcement decline to cite someone who clearly breaks the law resulting in the death of an innocent person?
Answers to these questions will come only when a thorough investigation in which independent counsel are present to protect the rights of the victims. No other child or adult should ever be caught in a crosswalk again, and at the very least, we need to revisit the length of time the crosswalk lights last and the severity of punishment for someone in an automobile who puts themselves ahead of someone on foot.