City of Astoria Takes Creative and Controversial Approach
This recent story in the Daily Astorian is touching some nerves. At a recent City Council meeting, the Commissioners listened to a presentation from experts, public testimony, and even a local Astorian's idea for preventing future pedestrian versus car collisions in Astoria. In 2011, there were nine pedestrian vehicle collisions, with one fatality. Others suffered severe injuries.
Many options were on the table, including increased lighting, more enforcement, and "enhanced crosswalks." The city council decided to try a novel idea referred to as a "flag or paddle" system. The decision to move forward with this option right away is probably because it is the least expensive. However, a traffic engineer explained that the City of Seattle abandoned a similar program after determining that only 17% of its pedestrians used the flag/paddle system.
I took a look on the web, and there is not much about paddles or flags for pedestrians, but there is a lot on pedestrian safety. Montgomery County, Maryland issued a report which begins by stating that in a five year period, pedestrian related deaths outnumbered homicides in that county. A safety campaign followed.
About three years ago, I tried a case for a man who was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street in Astoria on what is probably the straightest stretch of road in town, while in a crosswalk, and in broad daylight. There are a few lasting impressions from that trial.
When I spoke to potential jurors, I was amazed at how many people who walk in Astoria have suffered "close calls" with cars. When talking with friends after the trial, I was also amazed at the perceptions of some motorists that every pedestrian is "darting" out into the street, or coming from "nowhere."
We went into trial with absolutely no offer of settlement. Our client was disabled permanently from his job. My client's doctor explained the process of rebuilding my injured client's knee joint, and that even with plates and screws, arthritis would surely set in. Although the jury found that my client was partially at fault for failing to keep a lookout, it placed the majority of responsibility on the driver, who, according to another witness, was actually accelerating through the intersection, while towing another vehicle! The jury also found the injury significant, agreeing with our assessment of the compensation due to our client.
Why no offer? I do not know, but I suspect that it had something to do with the attitudes reflected in some of the comments from readers of the Daily Astorian piece.