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Pedestrian Still Critical After Willow Street Crash

by Melissa Bailey | May 16, 2013 1:56 pm

(32) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes, Transportation, East Rock

Melissa Bailey Photo (Updated) A man remained in critical condition after he was hit by a car while dashing across a busy East Rock thoroughfare to catch a bus Tuesday, according to police.

The collision took place around 5:45 p.m. on a busy stretch of Willow Street at Nash Street, not far from where cars leave and enter the highway.

The man was crossing the street towards the Shell gas station, apparently trying to catch the M2 bus, according to Sgt. Marco Francia.

A tan Audi hit him.

Police taped off the area and held an accident scene there as late as 8:30 p.m. Police held the bus at the scene in the hopes of recovering video footage from its cameras, Francia said.

The pedestrian “darted out” into traffic, according to one stunned driver stuck in a line of three cars being held at the scene.

Police spokesman Dave Hartman said Thursday that the accident investigation is on-going.

“The pedestrian was struck as he ran across Willow Street (near Nash Street) with someone else as they tried to catch a bus,” Hartman wrote. “The pedestrian was not in a cross-walk and did not have the right of way. The operator of the car stopped and has cooperated fully with the investigation.”

Police have not yet determined how fast the car was going, Hartman said. As of Wednesday afternoon, the victim remained in critical condition at Yale- New Haven Hospital, he said.

In response to concerns about speeding on that street, Hartman issued the following statement:

“Willow Street is heavily traveled and narrow. It runs for seven blocks from Whitney Avenue to Mitchell Drive. Two of the intersecting streets end at Willow Street, but do not cross it. There are 5 traffic control lights in this stretch of roadway.

“The department takes traffic concerns seriously. Enforcement efforts target many areas of the city as resources are available. A note of caution - The speed at which a vehicle is traveling is most often incorrectly perceived by pedestrians as higher - sometimes much higher than it actually is. The roadway sign the person reported as reading, “State law - Yield to pedestrians” actually reads ... in a crosswalk”. This pedestrian wasn’t.”

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posted by: DingDong on May 14, 2013  9:50pm

How fast was the car going?  If it was going the speed limit, changes are the pedestrian would not be in critical condition.

posted by: The3rdHorseman on May 15, 2013  7:06am

Ding Dong
I think getting hit by a car going 25 MPH can do a lot of damage to the human body.

posted by: JuliS on May 15, 2013  7:56am

yes, dingdong is correct—the speeds that people drive on willow are outrageous.

also, there is a crosswalk here that has needed to be repainted for years, right at this bus stop. and being right near two schools, a bus stop, and a busy gas station, it could use an in-road pedestrian sign to slow traffic for people to cross safely.

i’m sorry to hear this person is hurt & wish him the best.

posted by: SaveOurCity on May 15, 2013  8:29am

@DingDong:  two tons of steel moving at 30 mph will usually kill a human

sadly this is likely an offshoot of the lawlessness of the city.  Cars, bikes, and pedestrians are not encourages to obey laws and follow norms.  This inevitably lead to occasion where things come into conflict and the most massive item ‘wins’ and we all lose.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 15, 2013  9:05am

It should not be presumed that the driver was going too fast. I have seen some amazingly stupid moves by pedestrians in the last week - walking against the light in front of turning traffic at York and Chapel; crossing 4 lanes on Chapel in the middle of the block in moving traffic. There is almost a “dare me” aproach to some of these people. What we need is to be careful and courteous - both are in short supply by far too many in this city.

posted by: DingDong on May 15, 2013  9:15am

Yes, I take back my comment.  30 Mph is a dangerous speed limit—see the study below.  We should probably change it to 20mph. 

“about 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, about 40 percent for vehicles traveling 30 mph, about 80 percent for vehicles traveling 40 mph, and nearly 100 percent for speeds over 50 mph.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1999. Literature Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/pub/HS809012.html.

As it is, I see people speeding all the time on Trumbull and Willow and other areas near highway on/off ramps.  (I’m not saying that this driver was, but it happens all the time.)

posted by: anonymous on May 15, 2013  9:40am

Ding Dong is absolutely correct.

Getting hit at 20MPH rarely causes death; getting hit at 30MPH is more often than not fatal (even if death is not instantaneous, as it would be at 35 or 40MPH).

In fact many US cities are reducing speed limits to 20MPH on streets like Willow, and in residential zones, because it can save millions of dollars in crash expenses and improve quality of life.

If the driver was going above 25MPH they are responsible not only for the crash (as reaction time is decreased) but also for the increased level of injuries.

50,000 pedestrians have been killed in the US over the past decade, including around 20 in New Haven.  These are entirely preventable - we just need elected officials who care more about real issues than they do about raising money to run for office.

posted by: RCguy on May 15, 2013  9:54am

I agree with JuliS ‘c comment.
That crosswalk has been in very bad shape for a long time.
There is also a culture of speeding in New Haven.

Willow is very narrow, too. There are schools, laundromats, gas stations, etc. Very sad. I hope the pedestrian pulls through.

posted by: shadesofzero on May 15, 2013  10:56am

Typical pedestrian response: Car was obviously speeding and at fault.

Typical driver response: Pedestrian obviously jumped out in front of car and is at fault.

Typical biker response: You wouldn’t have these problems if only we had more bike lanes.

As someone who drives, rides, and walks all over the city, I assure you, there is plenty of poor decision-making going on all the time. The number of empty intersections I sit at because pedestrians don’t even look before hitting the walk button continues to blow my mind on a regular basis.

posted by: DingDong on May 15, 2013  11:15am

@Josh,

I would agree with you that there’s “lots of poor decisionmaking” by drivers, pedestrians and bikers. 

But street design has a lot to do with these bad decisions.  If streets are designed in a safe way, with lots of places for pedestrians to cross, with streetscape improvements so that it feels natural for drivers to travel 25mph or so (and maybe with some bike lanes for the bikes), people will have fewer opportunities to make bad decisions and less of a reason to do so anyway.

posted by: anonymous on May 15, 2013  11:33am

Josh - Design the speeds on most neighborhood streets down to the levels now being used in thousands of other cities (20mph), and suddenly none of those things are an issue.

Unfortunately, our engineers live in the 1950s and think of streets as highways, rather than as places where people actually live.  It is true that in the outer suburbs, where most if not all of our engineers and planners live, streets are barren wastelands used only by cars. But towns and cities are different.

posted by: robn on May 15, 2013  12:01pm

This is really terrible to hear. I wish the NHI published a name so neighbors imaginations aren’t running wild about who the injured might be.

ANONYMOUS
I’m not a lawyer but as I understand it, pedestrian could be considered negligent in an accident and at fault if they are:
1) jaywalking
2) crossing against traffic lights
3) are in a prohibited place (bridge or highway with no shoulder)
4) Creating a hazard with sudden action like entering a street abruptly.

If at the same time that a pedestrian is behaving negligently, a driver is speeding or doing something else illegal, then the driver would share some of the negligence as determined by a court.

The evaluation of this comes down to who exercised what degree of “reasonable care”. This article isn’t clear about whether the pedestrian was in a crosswalk but in a any event notes that the pedestrian darted into traffic. This is contrary to CT general Statutes Sec. 14-300c.(b)

posted by: robn on May 15, 2013  12:58pm

Sorry but my previous link is bad…this is the statute.

Sec. 14-300c. Pedestrian use of roads and sidewalks.  (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb, sidewalk, crosswalk or any other place of safety adjacent to or upon a roadway and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close to such pedestrian as to constitute an immediate hazard to such pedestrian. No pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or any drug to a degree which renders himself a hazard shall walk or stand upon any part of a roadway.

posted by: Curious on May 15, 2013  1:55pm

Changing the speed limits will do nothing in a city in which the police choose not enforce the speed limit.  Waste of breath.

posted by: robn on May 15, 2013  2:15pm

This street really needs a couple of speed tables ala Edwards St. It works.

posted by: anonymous on May 15, 2013  3:30pm

Curious, they don’t enforce the speeding laws in other cities either—that’s exactly why you need to lower the limit, because 1) by doing so it makes it more costly to speed (in the event of a crash), 2) it allows neighborhoods to better advocate for meaningful changes to the road design, like what Robn suggests, and 3) even not considering those things, drivers do actually drive 1-2 miles per hour slower, and as explained above a difference of even 1-2 miles per hour can easily mean the difference between walking away unscathed and being killed. This idea should be familiar to anyone who took high school physics.

posted by: Curious on May 15, 2013  5:52pm

Anon, do you live in CT?  I’ve been pulled over for speeding and not making a full stop in towns and cities both in this state.  I don’t do either of those anymore BECAUSE I was pulled over, and fined.  I know numerous others who’ve experienced the same.

posted by: RCguy on May 15, 2013  6:37pm

from the looks of it, the accident did not occur in the (neglected?) crosswalk at Nicoll and Willow

I have done some crazy things trying to catch a bus.

Still, the speeding on Willow is a problem.

posted by: SaveOurCity on May 15, 2013  7:30pm

Curious, have you ever been to New Haven?  In 10 years of living here, I have NEVER seen a car pulled over for a simple traffic violation (redlight, speeding etc) even when things are done in front of a police cruiser

posted by: William Kurtz on May 15, 2013  7:49pm

Who’s ‘negligent’ and where responsibility lies for a crash can be two different places; we tend to talk about cause, fault, and blame interchangeably, as if they were the same thing, when they really have to considered separately to make meaningful progress.

It’s entirely possible that the pedestrian was ‘at fault’, legally speaking. It’s just as true, though, that speed, the ‘culture of lawlessness’, road design, and the kinds of driving behaviors we tacitly overlook are all contributing causes to the crash and the severity of the victim’s injuries.

And yeah, I’m one of those pesky ‘bikists’ but I also drive, and walk, and ride a motorcycle; in short, I use just about every manner of transportation possible (I take the train but haven’t been on a bus in years).

Coming at it as a driver, yes, I’ve seen my fair share of carelessness and foolish behavior by cyclists and pedestrians. Do you know how I’ve made it this long without hitting anyone? It’s easy; I’ve learned to expect that in dynamic, complex urban environments, people will sometimes behave unpredictably. They’ll be careless and inattentive. They will make mistakes. They will make impulsive choices.

Since I have a greater ability to inflict damage behind the wheel, I have a correspondingly greater responsibility to be careful since others will bear not only the costs of their own mistakes but mine as well. So I reduce distractions. I don’t text, check email, read magazines, shave, or turn my stereo up to earth-shaking volume while slouching down so far I can’t see past the dashboard. I observe the posted speed limits—seriously. I think all cities have a 25 mph limit on municipal roads.

As a cyclist and a pedestrian, I have made my share of mistakes but in general, I play the game by the rules that are in place now. I yield when it’s not my turn and worry less about my ‘rights’ than the safest course of action.

None of this is that difficult.

posted by: Brian Tang on May 15, 2013  8:35pm

I am utterly baffled by the use of the term “thoroughfare” in the headline. Boston Post Road is a thoroughfare. Willow St is scarcely 30 feet wide (small by any standard) and has people living on it (residents). By definition it is, quite literally and incontrovertibly, a small, residential street.

posted by: anonymous on May 15, 2013  8:45pm

William, all nice thoughts but do nothing about the 50,000 Americans recently killed while walking in their neighborhood (including many children).  Making a mistake should not be a death sentence. We can easily change that, just as countless other cities have done. It is a political, not a technical, issue.

posted by: robn on May 15, 2013  8:58pm

WK

Which lesson did you learn first in life;
Observe the posted speed limit.
or
Look both ways before crossing.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 16, 2013  12:58am

For better or for worse, Willow Street totally IS a thoroughfare.  Exit 6 of I-91 uses Willow Street as its approach, and also empties off the ramp onto Willow Street.

This ridiculous situation for such a narrow, residential street is due to last-minute changes in the original plan for Exit 6, which was to run a flyover entrance/exit ramp through East Rock Park all the way to Whitney Avenue.  Neighbors were understandably incensed about this, and a similar plan to run the Rte 34 Connector right through Edgewood Park.  Both plans were modified at the last minute, resulting in anomalous designs both highways.  The I-91 Exit 6 ramp makes a dangerously tight horseshoe turn and lets out onto narrow, congested residential Willow Street. And with Rte 34, after an entire neighborhood was demolished so that the connector could be built, the highway sat unfinished for years and eventually only the two frontage roads were constructed, and ran into the Boulevard and stopped.  And now the lower part of the highway is being filled in for “new urbanism.”

Round and round we go.  Meanwhile, I’m sorry about this pedestrian.

posted by: Curious on May 16, 2013  9:23am

SaveOurCity, I was not responding to anonymous’ comment that NO cities, ANYWHERE, enforce traffic laws, which is a ridiculous and patently false statement.

If you read my first comment you’ll see that I agree with you.  Thanks for the response.

posted by: anonymous on May 16, 2013  10:22am

Curious, NHPD issues somewhere from 10,000 to 30,000 traffic tickets per year. Not enough. The point was most other cities also don’t do enough and that’s why implementing lower speeds is the only way proven to improve safety & reduce costs, in many cases reducing fatal crashes by 50% or, in the case of roundabouts, essentially eliminating them completely.  We need to jump on the bandwagon and stop thinking about police ticketing as a long term solution.

posted by: DingDong on May 16, 2013  2:22pm

I wonder why Officer Hartman thinks pedestrians underestimate vehicle speeds.

According to this study (which is a bit dated) the opposite is the case: “The standard deviation of estimated minus true speed was about 5 mph for all subjects and there was a tendency for observers to underestimate high speeds”  http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=52415

posted by: robn on May 16, 2013  2:53pm

DINGDONG,

Interesting but I think the location is too different (London), the sampling is too small (7 people observing 100 cars passing) and the methodological logic is weak (test subjects were prepared to pay attention rather than being surprised by a traumatic event that gets their adrenaline flowing). The last aspect I describe is significant because people can experience a neurological misperception of time due to trauma called Tachypsychia.

posted by: just my view on May 16, 2013  3:12pm

“The pedestrian was not in a cross-walk and did not have the right of way.”

The driver could have been going 15 mph and the same would happen. Knocked down and bang head and it results in critical condition.

I’m sure the CT Bus video will show the driver had no time to react regardless of speed.

posted by: anonymous on May 16, 2013  3:21pm

Just my view- that is absolute nonsense. When speeds are limited, fatalities practically disappear.

posted by: Living in New Haven on May 20, 2013  12:34am

@SaveOurCity:  Cars, bikes and Pedestrians are not encouraged to obey laws and follow norms.
I have to agree with SaveOurCity.  The current system makes traffic violations too costly and thus, unenforcible.  Rather than lose money the city doesn’t have to make New Haven streets safe, violators are ignored.  This creates a disturbing thought about quality of life and safe transit issues within New Haven. 
Here is a quote from an earlier NHI story. http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/advanced_students/
“Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen who has championed an effort to allow the city to install red light cameras to catch scofflaws, noted that the city gets only $10 from writing traffic tickets.  The rest of the money goes to the state.  The law is written that way so that municipalities don’t have incentive to say, set up a speed trap to collect a bunch of cash, Hausladen said.”
I say, What’s wrong with that?  If someone is violating the law and all violators are treated equally, why shouldn’t they be ticketed? 
“Hausladen said issuing citations can actually end up costing the city money, when you factor in the work it creates for a cop:  paperwork, appearing in court.  And cops will argue they should be out catching violent criminals, not writing tickets, Hausladen said.”
Therefore, people in New Haven violate traffic safety laws with impunity, insurance rates rise, and people die.  How many other cities and towns share this same mentality?  This system needs to be changed to allow cities a larger share of ticket revenues to make enforcement feasible.  I applaud Alderman Doug Hausland for honestly describing the problem.  I hope Mr. Hausladen, the other Alders and the Mayor work with Roland Lemar in Hartford to try and correct this systemic failure in the enforcement of traffic safety.

posted by: William Kurtz on May 20, 2013  8:39am

LiNH is right. There’s not a lot of incentive for municipal police to spend lots of time on moving violations. In contrast there is a lot of incentive to write parking fines. And look at how aggressively parking is enforced. What would happen if moving violations brought in the same revenue stream as parking tickets?

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