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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 26 March 2012

Pedestrian Impact: A Tale of Two Drivers

The Negligent Driver

I haven’t been on my blog or the Internet in general over the last few days.  Here’s why: on Friday, March 23rd at 2:40pm, I was hit by a car at the corner of Wilson Heights and Sheppard; I did walk away, but my blackberry wasn’t so lucky. 

Now for the details.

At about 14:40, I was waiting on the North-East corner of the intersection for the bus to Downsview subway station.  After waiting for quite a while, I decided it would probably be quicker to walk to Downsview; when I had the light, I started walking South.  As I reached the third lane, I saw the bus finally pulling down the road to my left, East; still having about 20 seconds on the walk sign, I turned around to head back.  It was then that I got ploughed into by a minivan, taking the full force of the impact on my left side.

Two things stood in my favour; one, the driver hadn’t had much time to accelerate between waiting at the light on the North side of Wilson Heights for a left turn onto Sheppard; by the severity of the impact, I’d guess he’d hit about 40kph when he struck me.  The second thing going for me was that I’m pretty nimble; I hit the hood and bounced off, but managed to land on my feet.  That’s not to say it didn’t hurt, a lot, or that the impact didn’t leave me shaken.  If it had been someone else, though, it could have been a lot worse – a head hitting the ground at that speed could have led to a concussion and some nasty wounds.

When a driver hits a pedestrian, as I understand it, there are certain legal obligations on their side; to call the police, to provide insurance information, etc.  The guy that hit me did none of those things.  In fact, he didn’t even get out of his car.  I had to walk around to the driver’s side myself.  Sitting there from his seat, he looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?”  I responded that no, I wasn’t; I’d just been hit by a car and it hurt. 

And that was it.  I had to push him to get his name – first is Ryan – and a phone number.  Ryan looked to be late-30s to early 40s, by no means a young kid.   He scrambled to find a paper, ripping a piece off of a MacDonald’s wrapper.  He scrawled his name and number in such a way I had to get him to repeat it.  I wrote down his license plate, too, and then said I was late in meeting my wife and that I would be in touch.  He shrugged and drove off.

Never once did he give the slightest hint of remorse; he never apologized, did not fulfill his legal obligations and didn’t seem to even recognize any moral obligations on his part.  I called 911 when I got to the school where my wife works, then went to the nearest Emergency Room.  The officer who took my report made it clear who was at fault – the driver.  He encouraged me to look into insurance for sustained injuries.  He also made it clear that the driver had neglected his responsibilities.  From there, the officer went to the address connected to the license plate.  Without going into too much detail, Ryan’s dad answered the door and initially refused to cooperate with the officer.  The dad is a lawyer with five cars in the driveway.  By the time the officer got back to me, it was clear he’d been given a lawyer’s talk and was suggesting I settle without going through insurance.  He said the father had not been helpful at first because “he was trying to protect his son” but everyone came around in the end.  

A bit later, I got a call from Ryan, saying that he guessed he had to “settle up” and write a cheque to cover my damaged phone, which had been on my hip and taken the full brunt of the impact.  Settle up – like it was a business deal.  Again, no apology, no hint of responsibility on his part.  He wanted to make sure his end was covered; I was simply an inconvenience to his Friday evening.

From a legal perspective, I didn’t find some way to call from the accident scene, I didn’t go out and find witnesses (nor did anyone come volunteer at the time), etc.  A good lawyer, which I’m sure Ryan’s dad is, can probably find all kinds of ways to make sure his son walks away from this incident without a legal scratch.  Meanwhile, my shoulder aches, my mobility is limited and, again, I was hit by a car; the body and mind have a lot going on in the minutes and hours after such an impact.  If you’re really hurt, as I was, you’re focus is not on building a case.  For the injury itself, there’s no telling what the long-term damage might be.  Ryan gets to walk away – I don’t.  I can’t pick up my son now, do the dishes, even put on a shirt without help or some sharp pain. 

The Responsible Driver

The ironic thing is, I myself was witness to something similar back in the fall.  On a cold, blustery day, I was at the intersection of Dufferin and Overbrook, North-West corner, waiting for the light to cross East.  A man, hunched against the cold, shoulders hunched and head down, was muttering to himself.  This fella had ear phones on and was oblivious to the world.  He passed beside me, to my right – and walked out into a moving car.  Steve, the guy who was hit, fell into the hood then went down onto his knee in the road.

From a bystander’s perspective, I had an impartial view of the situation; the driver had likely looked both ways, missed Steve as he walked behind an obstruction (me) on his way to the road.  Steve had his head down, music playing and had not even noticed the car.

At the moment, though, none of that mattered.  The driver immediately got out of his car and came over.  “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you!” he said.  “Are you okay?”  He helped Steve get to the corner, drove around the block to come back and park and eventually drove Steve to a hospital.  As a witness, I took it upon myself to give them both my contact information; I eventually received a call from the officer who took the report.  While I have no idea what happened from a justice perspective, what matters from a moral perspective is that the driver did everything he was supposed to and more; as a private citizen witnessing the event, I took it as my civic duty to provide assistance to both parties ensuring the facts were understood and carried out.

Ethics Matter

I have respect for the driver that hit Steve; an error happened and regardless of culpability, that fellow made the effort to do what it right.  That will work in his favour; Steve got the treatment he needed; I was happy to contribute in an unbiased fashion.  Looking for ways to support each other, even in adversity, is what moving forward together looks like.

I have zero respect for Ryan; his behaviour shows a real immaturity that makes me question not just him, but his family and the environment in which he was raised.  The dad’s initial refusal to cooperate “to protect his son” when his son had hit another person with an SUV told me pretty much all I needed to know.  The sad part is, I really think Ryan will see his eventual charges as being unfair, because he doesn’t understand what moral responsibility means.  If he’d shown some attention to others in the first place, the whole situation could have been avoided.

Little stories like both these tales play out every day, all across society.  It’s why the 99% are bitter at the 1% and why the 1% feel that the plight of the 99% has nothing to do with them.  The more we can educate the Ryans of the world to take care a bit beyond themselves, the better off – and less vindictive – we’ll all be. 

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