Last weekend, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian. Fortunately, I was uninjured, but just as things could’ve been way worse, they also could’ve been way better.
For a driver, hitting something or someone can be a scary thing, triggering an instinct to run. Doing so is not only inconsiderate, it’s also a felony. The moral and legal consequences of a hit and run accident are fierce.
As a pedestrian, even a close call is a life flashing experience. The news may or may not feature such stories depending on location, but there is no doubt that hit and run accidents happen in every city across the nation daily. Chicago, for instance, has seen a sharp rise in pedestrian fatalities and nearly half have been hit and run victims.
I have been a victim once and nearly hit several other times. Many other people around me have been victims as well.
One friend of mine was hit on his bicycle and trapped under the car. As he was pulling himself from the rear bumper, yelling at the driver, the driver then hit the gas. As a child, I saw a neighborhood girl get hit by a car. In junior high school, my locker partner was killed by a car while riding his bike. As a teenager, I watched my brothers get hit by a race car that lost course. To go on and on, as a driver and a passenger, I have been in at least ten car accidents.
These are all life changing experiences, that can get really bad really fast. Somehow, drivers of automobiles have little appreciation for the magnitude of the situation, though pedestrians can also act invincible at times. I have little patience for inconsiderate driving, jaywalking, or irresponsible bicycling.
A balance needs to be achieved by people using all modes of transportation to live harmoniously.
A friend of mine crashed his bicycle in the street and, as he was peeling himself off the pavement, a car passed with the driver saying, “Hey asshole, can you get your bicycle out of the street?” Numerous close encounters have resulted in drivers yelling at pedestrians, regardless of who was at fault.
Awareness is the first thing that needs to be improved.
Most commuters lack awareness because they are focused on their own objectives. In principle, people need to be less selfish and have some concern for other people and property. However, that is not consistent with the human experience. I could write articles all day about the selfish nature of people. There doesn’t need to be an end goal of avoiding all accidents, just a place to start to make things a little more compassionate.
What to do in the event of a hit and run:
If you are the driver…
For the love of god, stop. Help out the victim, if possible. Exchange information. Cooperate with the authorities. There may be some big fines, but that’s part of owning up to responsibility. When everyone cooperates, things are simple. If not, things will become much more complicated and costly. Even being drunk, driving on a suspended license, having a warrant or other issues are not nearly as serious as leaving the scene of an accident.
The most significant reason to stop, of course, is that assistance will help a lot in saving a victim’s life.
If you are the victim…
Hard as it may be, try to stay calm and assess the situation. The police will ask and when you don’t have an answer they will question your reliability. Mostly, you will need good information to help police make an arrest and for insurance companies to pay out claims.
Take phone numbers and names from witnesses. More eyes ensures more credibility. The last thing a person in distress needs is no way to prove the events.
Above all, though, make sure to file a report promptly. Even if you are not hurt, there could be complications down the road and that’s the only record that counts. Mostly, police have to know about incidents to be able to put a stop to the insanity.
If you are the witness…
As an unbiased observer, witness testimony matters most. Third parties have less emotional investment to note details and have more capability of writing things down. They also have a distanced vantage point for a larger picture of what occurred. For the sake of the victim, it is crucial for witnesses to respond, particularly when the driver does not stop to assist.
Ultimately, all parties need to learn how to be more aware of others. Drivers need to be less aggressive, pedestrians need to more cautious and witnesses need to help lend a hand. In hindsight, I can say I learned a lot from my experience this weekend to be able to better act in the future. And without a doubt, as scary as it is to see a car accelerating a few feet in front of you, it is an experience that helps understand how fast problems can happen, but how easily problems can be avoided.
Please, stop, look and listen. It will save a life.