Two women were run over by a tour bus and killed on December 19th, as they crossed Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington, D.C.
Eleven years ago, in 2007, two women were also killed at the exact same place, also by a bus making the same left turn from northbound 7th onto westbound Pennsylvania.
There are a number of safety features in place to ensure pedestrian safety:
-A strict ban on cell phone use by drivers.
-The intersection is well lit.
-It is controlled with traffic signals.
-There are pedestrian “walk” lights which countdown the seconds remaining to clear the intersection.
-There is a marked pedestrian lane.
-There is a half-way stopping point/safe zone.
And yet, two double-fatality pedestrian incidents have occurred at the exact same place by vehicles of the same type.
In the 2007 incident, the driver was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to prison, the current driver has also been arrested.
In the most recent incident, the driver was talking on a handheld cell phone.
One thing is for sure — something more is required than following and using all safety features.
Situational awareness, that is being reasonably cognizant regarding what is going on around you, is key.
Drivers were either distracted or ignored the presence of pedestrians in their path.
A pedestrian fully aware of the potential hazards would likely be able to see the approaching danger and step away from the moving vehicle.
Sadly, both pedestrians and drivers are distracted creating an environment where disaster can strike.
As a frequent motor coach rider I can attest that some drivers are both assertive and distracted; it’s a volatile combination.
Many pedestrians are engrossed in smartphone use as they cross the street, oblivious to their surroundings and potential danger; it is as if they feel they are walking in a protected bubble.
This same scenario, a potentially dangerous environment with mitigating safety features, complicated by distraction and inattention, is a common circumstance.
Crowds, enclosed areas, aircraft, trains, all require a heightened sense of awareness that is mostly lacking as people willfully disengage from their surroundings.
Seventh and Pennsylvania should serve as a potent reminder that paying attention is a matter of life and death.