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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Opinion

Pedestrians and drivers share responsibility on the road


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Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

We’ve all seen it. Those pedestrians who are too fixed on their phones to pay attention to their surroundings, walking across an intersection without stopping to see if any cars are driving through. Then there are the bicyclists who just don’t want to stop, barreling through the crosswalk without keeping an eye out for any vehicles.

There are those drivers who think they own the road and speed through intersections and stoplights without a worry or care that there may be someone crossing. This occurs all over Houston — as seen in the case of a Houston school bus driver who was charged in the death of a 56-year-old man who died two days prior to the driver being charged.

On Oct. 15, the cyclist was pedaling on Airport Boulevard when he was struck by the school bus and soon died from his injuries, according to the Houston Chronicle. The driver in question, 54-year-old Phyllis Ann Booker, did not stay at the scene of the crime because she did not realize she hit anyone.

Booker, who is a driver for the First Student bus company, was first notified of her action after law enforcement officers discovered blood under her bus. Due to Booker’s exit, the case was treated as a hit-and-run.

This incident brings up an interesting debate of who should be at fault in the case of an accident involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist. As university students, we are more susceptible to this particular event.

As students, walking, biking and driving are a part of our daily routine. Commuters are driving through Houston to get to campus, on-campus residents are walking and biking to go from class to class, and the UH campus is filled with intersections and crosswalks.

Broadcast journalism senior Christina Caballero said drivers need to be careful because the blame will land on them.

“Now that I’ve been commuting, I’ve noticed a lot of jaywalkers, which is annoying because I always have to be cautious as I drive,” Caballero said. “But I think the driver and the pedestrian have to be aware at all times. Ultimately, it goes down to your responsibility. If someone gets hit, it’s always going to be the driver’s fault, no matter what the pedestrian says.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, at the time the bicyclist was hit, the stoplight for the driver was green; Booker was technically not in the wrong. It is not the case of her breaking the stoplight and hitting this bicyclist, it is the case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time — for both of them.

It is not easy to decide who should be at fault, should such an accident occur. It’s very easy to pin the blame on the operator of a motor vehicle, but it should go both ways. One can never depend on another person to do the right thing.

Chemical engineering senior Lizzeth Jones said she believes it depends on the situation.

“But ultimately, if an accident does happen, the fault comes down to the driver. I say this because they are the ones with the bigger vehicle, and they have the wider range of vision,” Jones said.

“A pedestrian or bicyclist is only watching where they need to go. A driver is always looking ahead and therefore should see someone going across the crosswalk from a distance.”

It shouldn’t purely be up to the driver to prevent accidents. In a case where a pedestrian is going across a crosswalk when the crosswalk sign clearly says “Do Not Cross,” the driver shouldn’t solely be held accountable. A driver always needs to scan his surroundings and watching for these individuals, but pedestrians also need to be cautious and cognizant of their surroundings.

As far as the case of Booker is concerned, District Judge Renee Magee has given her a $30,000 bail and placed her on bond supervision. Booker is prohibited from driving, and her next court appearance has been scheduled for Nov. 19.

Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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