A news item about a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle reminds me of some past experiences in similar situations.
St. Petersburg, Florida – A girl struck by a car on Wednesday night has been identified as an 18-year-old Largo High School student.
St. Petersburg Police say a driver didn’t see Alicia Tergeson until she was right in front of the car. Tergeson was wearing dark clothing and headphones.
The driver swerved, but couldn’t stop. Tergeson was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where she is listed in critical condition.
My first thought carries me back to the days when I was a student at Largo High School. I can recall at least two near tragedies as I swerved to avoid pedestrians in the roadway. Both were at night. At the last second my headlights picked up the pedestrians who were just coming into my path. Fortunately, collisions with the pedestrians were avoided.
As a lawyer in Tampa Bay I have investigated many accidents in which serious injuries and deaths have occurred when pedestrians were struck at night in the roadway. In just about every instance the driver stated the pedestrian suddenly appeared immediately in front of the vehicle. In some of the accidents the driver said the first awareness of the pedestrian was when the front of the vehicle struck the pedestrian.
Obviously, a driver does not expect to be confronted with a pedestrian in the roadway. However, the law requires a driver to be continuously observing the roadway ahead in order to detect anything that may pose a hazard. And, it requires that headlights properly illuminate the roadway and the side of the road for a specified distance ahead of the vehicle. No driver is supposed to operate a vehicle faster than the illumination of the headlights would permit.
Pedestrians do not suddenly materialize in the path of a vehicle. They usually walk into the path. As they are walking, even wearing relatively dark clothing, they should be observable as soon as the headlight beam strikes them. If a driver is truly attentive to the roadway ahead, has properly aimed and functioning headlights and is driving at a safe speed under the circumstances, it is reasonable to assume there will be some reaction time for applying the brakes or swerving.
Statements by drivers that I never saw the victim before the collision or I had no time to do anything have opened the door for questioning the driver in far more detail. Often, the driver was not paying close attention to the roadway, was speeding or had not properly maintained the headlights.
I do not know anything about this sad collision which sent the Largo High School student to the hospital except for the brief facts in the news story carried by Tampabays10.com. But, these are the thoughts that come to me. I think the conduct of the driver is at least as important as the headphones the young lady was wearing.