Police charged a Yale student with failure to obey a school bus’s stop sign after she allegedly drove into a 7-year-old boy at the corner of Orchard and Elm streets.
It’s unclear whether the police will also charge the driver under the state’s new “vulnerable users” law, Public Act. No. 14-31.
The collision took place Thursday afternoon around 3:20 p.m. A school bus was dropping off the 7-year-old at the end of the school day. The bus’s stop sign was extended and visible, according to police, but the Yale student ignored it and struck the boy at a slow speed.
The boy remained “alert” and calm afterwards as police arrived at the scene and he was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for minor injuries, according to Sgt. Stephan Torquati, the top cop in the Dwight neighborhood. The child required a cast on his right ankle to help him heal from a sprain and a fracture.
The infraction for which the driver was charged carries a $450 fine.
Police are still deciding whether the driver should be charged under the vulnerable users law, which went into effect last year, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman. A misdemeanor, the fines drivers up to $1,000 for recklessly—and seriously injuring or killing—a cyclist, pedestrian, construction worker, skateboarder, or other non-motorized human (as well as motorized-wheelchair user) in their path, as long as the victim exercised “reasonable care” in use of the street.
But the law presents legal authorities with limited guidance on when to charge, specifically what constitutes a “serious injury.”
The state judicial branch offers this definition on its website: “‘Serious physical injury’ is something more serious than mere physical injury, which is defined as “impairment of physical condition or pain.” It is more than a minor or superficial injury. It is defined by statute as ‘physical injury’ which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”
Police have been directed to charge a driver under the law if, for instance, the driver is talking on a cell phone and then breaks a pedestrian’s leg by crashing into her, Hartman said.
Hartman noted that even a “broken bone” can be more serious in some cases than in others: “A hairline fracture and a compound fracture are completely different,” he noted. He predicted that with so much “room for interpretation,” authorities will be wrestling the question for time to come.
Downtown Alder Abby Roth said Thursday’s crash points up the need for more discussion about how to determine when the law should be applied. “It is quite limiting in its language,” Roth said. “There’s no precedent for what reaches that standard of seriousness.”
posted by: Anderson Scooper on October 30, 2015 2:35pm
Could we hear State Rep Roland Lemar’s take on this, as he co-sponsored the law? (Which likely needs revision.)
In most municipalities, a driver who injured a school-kid getting off a bus would have the proverbial book thrown at them. Not so in New Haven where the suburban police person relates more with the driver than the actual victim.
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 30, 2015 2:50pm
Who is more vulnerable than a child???
posted by: anonymous on October 30, 2015 3:38pm
Are these people kidding?
Any fracture should be considered a very serious injury.
Even the most minor fracture leads to impairment of the function of bodily organs. Being in a cast counts as an impairment. Minor fractures can also lead to far more serious complications after the initial injury, ranging from physical therapy to death, especially if casts are required.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 30, 2015 4:48pm
I was talking to a lawyer friend of mine who told me this vulnerable users law can be challege in the courts.
posted by: William Kurtz on October 30, 2015 6:10pm
Okay, if this law doesn’t apply to someone who passes a school bus with its lights flashing and runs over a little kid, they might as well just repeal it.
posted by: 1644 on October 30, 2015 6:23pm
Anon: I have never heard of a hairline fracture leading to impairment of bodily functions. Often, fractures are undiagnosed for some time: the pain is tolerable, and going to a doctor seems more painful. Just met some one last night in such a situation. I had a simple fracture in my hand, but only saw a doctor after three weeks when the pain was still three. Not everyone goes crying to the doctor after every injury.
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 30, 2015 7:43pm
I didn’t go to the Doctor after the Cops jumped me and inflicted bodily harm for running an Arts Festival.
I treated it like a skateboard accident or a rock climbing fall, or something that happens to an adventurous sort in the course of living.
It was Ten months of pain for me, and my decision about treatment was mine, as an adult.
To think that something happens like this to a child, and is considered ‘dismissable’, is completely unacceptable to me.
How bout ‘Attempted Murder by Neglect’ as a charge?
posted by: Adelaide on October 31, 2015 8:45am
@ 1644 - we are talking about the injury of a child here right? Agree with anonymous and Wm. Kurtz..Is there some reason she isnt being charged other than being a Yalie? Not surprised this happened given so many of these students can’t even figure out how to cross a street! lol
posted by: jim1 on October 31, 2015 9:27am
She did not sigh up for driving class 101 at Yale. Give her both tickets. Let her fight it if she wants. She must have money if she goes to Yale, she might just have some extra.
posted by: 1644 on October 31, 2015 2:20pm
Bill S: Never said it was “dismissible”, whatever that means. Driver here, like cop who hit woman crossing the street, is clearly at fault, if only for failing to watch we she was going. She should certainly be cited for failure to stop for the school bus, and is civilly liable. I was just saying that every broken bone is not necessarily serious (even in children), and very few broken bones would impair function of an organ. BTW, yes, I inflicted a few injuries on myself when young, but most were treated by my mom or dad. Lots of people break bones and never seek treatment. Yes, big difference between hairline needed some rest and compound fracture. Remember too, kids heal quickly.
posted by: robn on October 31, 2015 4:31pm
The law is specifically written to apply to children in a crosswalk no doubt; the first listed vulnerable group is pedestrians. Check.
The law specifically addresses a lack of reasonable care. Check.
The law applies to serious injury or death ....no definition I can find in the CT Gen statutes.
In any event I hope the child is OK. It’s highly likely that a civil suit will ensue with a number that will dwarf the $1000 fine.
posted by: Hill South on October 31, 2015 7:53pm
She should be charged according to this law and fined the full amount. The school bus had its STOP signs extended and the driver ignored it, hitting a child who was walking where and how instructed, who sustained an injury “LUCKILY” only a sprain. A child leaving a school bus ... an adult in a car ignoring the STOP. I don’t see the need for ‘more discussion’. And I hope THIS story get as much attention as the one about the police car that struck a Yale fellow who was walking outside the crosswalk. Let’s just be fair.
posted by: Molly W on November 2, 2015 9:21am
Throw the book. This is a serious infraction.