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Do bright clothes stop car crashes? Not at Dunkin' Donuts

Highway officials tell pedestrians to wear bright colors so motorists will see you and won't hit you. So why do drivers still crash into brightly-colored Dunkin' Donuts stores?

A driver crashed into a Dunkin' Donuts in Golden's Bridge, New York in 2010. Photo by Golden's Bridge Fire Department.

An internet search found eight cases just this year of drivers smashing into pink and orange doughnut shops. One store in Brooklyn was hit twice, in June of last year and again in January.

One incident involved a motorist who took ill while driving and died in the collision. Otherwise, only a few people were hurt. But the outcome could easily have been worse if someone had been standing in the wrong place.

The excuses drivers make when they strike pedestrians aren't available when they hit Dunkin' Donuts. "I didn't see it" would lack credibility. "It jumped out in front of me" even more so. It should be easy to assign fault when car and store collide.

Yet police chose not to cite the drivers who caused four of these crashes. (One driver died, the driver of a stolen truck is still being sought, and two police departments did not return my calls.) Law enforcement officers seem to think that motorists are under no legal obligation to control their cars. As a Dover, New Hampshire, police lieutenant explained, a woman who hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and smashed into a doughnut store committed no violation because she was sober and not texting.

Motorists have nothing special against Dunkin'. A consultant on retail store safety estimates that Starbucks might get hit as much as once a week. His advice to merchants is to put bollards out front.

Cars colliding with buildings should not be a normal part of life. They are a signal that our highway system is seriously out of whack.

Roads will never be safe unless drivers are held accountable for their ton of deadly steel. One way to start is with fewer lectures about how pedestrians should dress. If bright colors don't protect Dunkin' Donuts, they won't save those on foot.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is now available in paperback. 


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Enforcement and education aimed at motorists are definitely key.

OTOH visibility is good too. Cyclists regularly wear bright colors for riding in any conditions other than bright light, and utilize lights (including strobe) as well. Peds who are on sidewalks, not in the street should not need anything like that, but a bit of reflective tape isn't going to hurt. In parts of the suburbs without sidewalks (a condition that should change, at least on the arterials, but it will take time).

Similarly cars should only operate with all their lights functioning. And they should use their turn signals.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

Property Damage is not against the Law?

by Richard on Nov 7, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

I'd want to agree with the intent of all this, but wow- this is some colorful prose.

by Bossi on Nov 7, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@Richard - unless there is an intent there, negligent damage of property is likely not a crime. Now, these drivers' insurance companies will be paying for their damage and I bet their rates go up a ton as well. So that's the punishment.

by JDC Esq on Nov 7, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

I view it as a system vs. individual thing.

Should individuals take care to make themselves visible and generally safe? Absolutely.

Should jursidictions be operating on an assumption that more vulnerable (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists) individuals should bear the responsibility of being on safe streets? No, it is on the government to ensure that the system is built so that things are as safe as possible regardless of the apparent risks (like wearing dark clothing, or walking around at night) are mitigated as much as possible. This has to be done through design and enforcement.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

@ Richard:Property Damage is not against the Law?

Isn't that a civil thing? I.e., the store owner has to sue the driver for the damage.

by Jasper on Nov 7, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

Plus as Ben indicates, this basically puts it on stores (and the people inside them presumably?) to ensure that they don't get hit, rather than making sure people maintain control of their vehicles and face consequences when they don't.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

This is apples and oranges. To compare the rare occurrence where the motorist fully lost control to the thousands and thousands of vehicle/pedestrian interactions where inattention or, yes, a failure to register the pedestrian's presence can be deadly, taking steps to decrease the odds of a collision is good advice.

It's not blaming the victim as much as it's saying don't be one.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

what drumz said

yes, its important that LE take driver responsibility seriously (and there probably is a violation involved in hitting a store - you are driving someplace where yuo shouldnt - thats got to be a violation even if unintentional - how about failure to yield to retail ;) )

But that really has to be addressed mostly locally - one jurisdiction at time - if you are going to get upset by every idiocy that happens in this great big country you are going to be upset lots of the time. Theres always going to be some foolish PD somewhere (though its particularly troubling that NYC PD isnt better). What can WE do to raise consciousness in MoCo, DC, ArlCo, FFX, etc?

I note that the new FFX chief of police is a cyclist (well he says he is). There was a FFX police rep at the FFX county bike summit last week. We need to reach out to local LE, and give them the better information they need, and guide them toward change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Note, in the LoCo case linked, one of the injured was in the car.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

This is asinine. People don't run into Dunkin Donuts because they can't see them. They run into Dunkin Donuts because they don't have control of their vehicles for any number of reasons.

Meanwhile, if a pedestrian is walking on a roadway wearing dark clothes at a night, even a driver with the utmost caution and attention won't realize the pedestrian is there until they are only a few meters away, giving all driver (especially inattentive ones) less time to react. Colorful clothes increase visibility, which is a problem in many if not most pedestrian accidents. But if the car isn't under control (like in the Dunkin cases), the pedestrian has no hope either way.

by Landon on Nov 7, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport


But the question, how much responsibility should the pedestrian (or store manager) vs. driver face. As Ben says "Law enforcement officers seem to think that motorists are under no legal obligation to control their cars." but is that what's best? If you're operating a vehicle that is thousands of pounds shouldn't you be responsible to be in control? We do it for commercial vehicles and I think there is an argument that it should be for private use as well since they have similar destructive power.

Right now if you get hit by a car the driver can pretty much get away with it if they say they didn't see you (and aren't drunk at the time). But if we had a system that put responsibility for safety on those capable of causing greatest harm we could see a reduction in collisions and fatalities which would be a net good.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

I also disagree with the very premise, that we can punish our way into better behavior. Consistency of enforcement is important (more so that the severity of the punsihment), but at it's heart, it's a design issue. Places where pedestrians and cars interact have to be designed so that speeds are not too high, and points of interaction have good sight lines and protection for pedestrian built in.

Areas where you have few pedestrian crossings, high speeds and commercial activity, like Route 50 in Virginia, are classic examples of poor design for pedestrian safety. You could impose severe penalties for motorists who hit pedestrians, and it would still happen.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

Remember most of these incidents happens on privately owned parking lots; not on public streets. And once you get onto private land, legality and enforcement gets muddy.

by RJ on Nov 7, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport


It is critical to design better. But in previous cases where enforcement has ramped up, violations have gone down. Drunk Driving, through a long PSA campaign plus tough penalties have worked to decrease drunk driving fatalities. Red Light cameras have consistently been shown to reduce injury causing collisions. There is a lot of ground that can be gained through better enforcment (even in breakfast links people were talking about how its harder to get away with parking in a rush hour lane because you're more likely to get towed).

It's not the total solution but it's worked before.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

I think this article makes a good point. We give all sorts of passes to inept driving or cars in general that we would never give to any other aspect in our lives. Think about all the contradictions in your life that the car entails:

- Why can't you smoke in front of a school but all these cars can just idle in front of it. Isn't car exhaust toxic?

- Why is property worth so much unless it's a parking space? The minute you store a car in a space the market all of the sudden doesn't apply, right?

- A retailer can charge as much as they want for a product, according to what the market bears, but if gas station charges too much it's "price gouging".

- Every construction worker in DC is handicapped for some strange reason yet they seem to get in and out of their cars just fine.

- A wide sidewalk is a waste of space because we all know that all those hundreds of pedestrians can fit on the tiny sidewalk; what we really need the space for is to store 25 or so cars.

And the list goes on and on...

by dc denizen on Nov 7, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Of your 3 examples, only one focusses on the severity of the punishment, and the other two on the consistency of enforcement. For the one, I think society was virtually unanimous in considering drunk driving unacceptable behavior. I'm not sure you could get similar consensus on this point--it falls more into the realm of fault, but not egregious behavior that would warrant severe penalty.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

I'd prefer consistency of punishment over severity (it seems to get better results, and is automatically more severe than no-punishment anyway).

From what I've read, it took some time to convince people that drunk driving was as dangerous (due to biases of people over-estimating their abilities) so I'd expect it take some time to convince people that yes, you need to be in control of your car and that "I didn't see you!" is not a good enough excuse. A lot of that goes back to being biased about your own abilities (see: every debate about speed limits and numerous people who say they drive safe at any speed).

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

Ditto on the lights. I've seen cyclists after 6:30 / 7 PM which is dark now riding without lights. Bikes are quiet, they can't be hard to see too.

by BTA on Nov 7, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

So why do drivers still crash into brightly-colored Dunkin' Donuts stores?

Drunk Driving, Senior Citizens being lost, Juveniles driving wrecklessly especially without license, and people running from the law...

by Rick on Nov 7, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

"I think this article makes a good point."

No, it doesn't. Not a single, solitary, good point.

Even the notion that the police didn't cite the drivers isn't supported -- at least, not by the article. The author says "police chose not to cite the drivers who caused four of these crashes. (One driver died, the driver of a stolen truck is still being sought, and two police departments did not return my calls.)"

Does this mean that these are the four cases where drivers weren't cited? If so. it's an absurd claim. Even if the author meant to say that no citations were issued in four other cases (and the listed four offered other reasons where the point would be less clear), it's ignorance to think this is meaningful.

Simple negligence is not something the police can cite you for -- regardless of whether it happens in a car or not. That's why people have insurance, and the companies or the courts sort out liability.

I'm blind in one eye. As a result, I regularly bump into people in the street or in stores. Well -- when I say "as a result," I know other people bump into each other, but I'm sure it happens much more often with me. I turn corners and can't see what's on my right. Often, the bumps occur at least in part, because the other person proceeds assuming I can see them -- but, often, it's entirely my "fault." Sometimes, it;s not a person, it's a wall, column, door or other artifice I did not anticipate.

Are these preventable? I could use a cane to tap out obstacles on my right -- of course, people might not appreciate being tapped by a cane, but at least they'd appreciate that I might have some visual impairment. On the other hand, I see pretty darn well with the other eye -- and I consider myself one of the more capable drivers on the road. As for when I'm walking about, I do my best, but accidents happen. That doesn't make it a police matter.

Drivers sometimes shift into the wrong gear. or depress the gas instead of the brake.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Drivers sometimes shift into the wrong gear. or depress the gas instead of the brake.

Right but that simple mistake can have disastrous consequences. Bumping into people on the sidewalk is far less of a risk.

It doesn't help where we have a system where its hard to sue civilly when someone hits you with a car with contributory negligence laws.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

I came within feet of hitting a cyclist with my car on Route 1 in Prince George's Country one night earlier this year. I was making a right turn from a business parking lot onto the road. The cyclist was riding the wrong way on the shoulder without lights while wearing dark clothing, in an area of Route 1 that was dimly lit.

If I had hit him, who would have been at fault? If I had expended extra effort to scan the road to the right for unexpected traffic before making the turn, I would have seen him. On the other hand, doing so could have allowed a speeding vehicle from the left to approach while I hesitated; the speed limit is 40MPH in that section but some people drive much faster than that.

The cyclist probably thought that he was safe riding on the shoulder, but without lights, he wasn't visible until he had gotten close. The moral of the story is that riding at night without a headlight or taillight vastly increases the chances of a collision in ways that it may be difficult for non-drivers to perceive. (I've never had trouble avoiding bikes that were lit, even at night.)

by jms on Nov 7, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

"I didn't see them" should not be considered and excuse, but rather an admission of failure to keep a proper lookout.

While I think it is reasonable to have a level of visibility to avoid getting hit, at what point is increasing one's visibility simply compensating for a lack of driver attention to the task at hand, you know, driving?

by twk on Nov 7, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

"Cars colliding with buildings should not be a normal part of life. They are a signal that our highway system is seriously out of whack."

This is not the only absurd claim in the piece, but it the most absurd. THese -- and other accidents like it -- say absolutely nothing about our highway system. Buildings are almost never directly along highways. Dunkin Donuts are either along city streets or located in strip malls surrounded by parking lots and drive-thru lanes.

Cars are dangerous conveyances. The amusing part about this war on cars/drivers theme that keeps popping up here is that buses are even more dangerous, but every other piece here calls for more buses and ways to make buses even faster and necessarily even more dangerous to other vehicles and pedestrians.

There is great utility in the motor vehicle. It benefits the operator, the passengers, and also benefits the rest of society because it facilitates greater and more efficient commerce. The point I was trying to make above, about my eyesight -- I know I present a greater risk to other pedestrians than a perfectly sighted person, but I don't stay in my room all day because I cannot. It would not be appropriate for me -- and I contribute more to those around me and to society than I would if I were forced to stay at home. It may be that driverless cars will prove safer than human-operated ones, but there will be still be risks. We could ban cars, or we could do what we've done for a century -- to make them safer, because they enrich our civilization, even with all the carnage they might leave behind.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

There is a lot of utility to cars. There should also be more responsibility as evidenced to how ridiculously easy it is to get away with hitting something or someone with little consequence from the law.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

@drumz: The argument for the merchants having a duty to put up bollards is not that the merchants have a greater responsibility than drivers. Rather the idea is that merchants have a duty to protect their customers from foreseable injury or death.

If a driver goes through the window and hurts you, then of course you can sue him. But if it is a stolen car or he lacks insurance, maybe it's also the metchant's fault--at least where this sort of thing happens. In that case, maybe you should be able to get compensated from the merchant instead, and let his insurance company go after the driver. Or maybe you sue them both.

by JimT on Nov 7, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

"It doesn't help where we have a system where its hard to sue civilly when someone hits you with a car with contributory negligence laws.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 12:06 pm."

Well -- there is definitely an argument to be made that comparative negligence is a superior regime.

For those who don't understand the legal distinction -- in a comparative negligence jurisdiction, one can still make a claim even if one is partly responsible for the incident. Liability gets determined based on comparative levels of fault -- if one is 60% at fault, the person who is 40% at fault can still collect for 60% of his/her injuries.

In a contributory negligence jurisdiction, there would be no claim if both parties were negligent. The thinking there is that someone who wasn't exercising the appropriate level of care and caution shouldn't be able to sue someone else who also failed to act with due care.

So, if a pedestrian or bicyclist was proceeding negligently, they would be able to sue and recover from a driver who also was negligent in a comparative negligence jurisdiction, but not in a contributory negligence jurisdiction.

It's kinda curious that someone who is complaining above that the laws should be tightened to force drivers to act with utmost care is also arguing for a liability regime that would protect pedestrians and cyclists from their own negligence.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport


If i drive well over the speed limit, or i run a red light, I will be subject to being ticketed. That it was due to error or putting my foot on wrong pedal is no excuse. Period. The same should apply to other places where a motor vehicle does something illegal - including driving on a sidewalk. You are responsible for driving your motor vehicle correctly.

As for buses, we all want transit vehicles to be driven more safely. That we want more buses is due to the many advantages to urban development, environment, and quality of life of having good transit choices.

" We could ban cars, or we could do what we've done for a century -- to make them safer, because they enrich our civilization, even with all the carnage they might leave behind"

We can also attempt to provide more alternatives, and where motor vehicles present dangers to non-motorists we can address that with both improvements to infra, and with education and enforcement. That does NOT mean banning cars, which is a red herring.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

re lights for peds and bikes

I would like to note that there is a big difference between cyclists riding in the road (or on a shoulder) and pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Cyclists are required to have lights by law - appropriately so, as they ride in the space shared with motorists (and other faster cyclists). Pedestrians are in a space where there should be no vehicles presenting a danger to them - and when they cross at lights etc motorists should be expecting them.

There are of course grey areas (so to speak) but the two modes should not be confused on this issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

"It's kinda curious that someone who is complaining above that the laws should be tightened to force drivers to act with utmost care is also arguing for a liability regime that would protect pedestrians and cyclists from their own negligence."

It wouldnt - their share of negligence, IIUC, would reduce what they would collect for the drivers negligence. It just wouldnt reduce it to zero.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

"Rather the idea is that merchants have a duty to protect their customers from foreseable injury or death. "

The notion thats vehicles hitting retail outlets is so common that its "foreseeable" is what takes one aback.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport


Mostly because vehicles are more intrinsically dangerous than a pedestrian or cyclist. Again, as long as you aren't drunk if you say "I didn't see you" you can usually get away from hitting someone with little to no legal repercussion. I'm fine with pedestrians and cyclists being "more negligent" because A: they're probably not going to kill anybody through that negligence B: our streets by and large are designed with pedestrian/cylist safety as an afterthought anyway so the game is rigged against them.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

On putting up bollards -- it's ridiculous that property owners should have to take even an admittedly simple step like that to protect their property. I don't understand why the federal gov't keeps putting those up around their buildings. The onus should be on terrorists to stop using car bombs.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport


Do you think drivers who drive into retail stores should be treated the way we treat terrorists? We do put the onus on the terrorists - we arrest them, try them, and send them to prison.

BTW, if its reasonable to put bollards in front of stores, does that not argue for stronger physical protections for public sidewalks - wider buffers with trees and street furniture (at least) to protect them from vehicles?

and should we not build more cycle tracks with much stronger protections than we typically use in the USA today?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7: I say we try it, and see what happens. I suspect that the current societal norm that anything goes behind the wheel will change given the appropriate cues.

by Mike on Nov 7, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Highway officials tell pedestrians to wear bright colors so motorists will see you and won't hit you. So why do drivers still crash into brightly-colored Dunkin' Donuts stores?

Only think how many more Dunkin Donuts stores drivers would drive into, if the stores weren't pink and orange!

by Miriam on Nov 7, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

This reminds me of the crash in New York that happened a month or so ago where a driver drove up on the sidewalk and ran into some kids. They even have it on video.

From what I've read, this driver wasn't even cited for a traffic violation.

Will punishing this person really affect the system in a positive way? I don't think so. Will people stop jumping curbs and accidentally plowing into pedestrians and store fronts if we make the punishment for doing so harsher? No.

by UrbanEngineer on Nov 7, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport


AFAIK all vehicles sold in the USA are designed to make it easy to tell the gas pedal from the brake. People who confuse them just may not be paying sufficient attention.

Do people make mistakes? Sure. We dont excuse other traffic infractions due to error.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

Property damage may not be a felony, but you can be ticketed and charged for failing to operate your vehicle in a safe manner. If you can do 20 years for a possession of a small amount of marijuana, I don't see whats wrong with losing your license for driving into Dunkin's

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

@ drumz -- Driving, like everything else, is not a perfect operation. Sometimes, drivers don't see pedestrians or cyclists. Cars have blind spots -- also other vehicles, or stationary objects may obstruct your views. Other cars are easier to spot -- That's because they're more readily anticipated on the road and also because they're just so much bigger. Pedestrians and cyclists have to know that they're harder to see and should act with the greatest level of care.

Sometimes, though, drivers don't even see other cars. My car has a wide, flared post on either side of my front window. More than once, I've looked to my right -- and having seen no traffic approaching me, I begin to proceed into the intersection...only to have to suddenly stop because there's a car nearly right in front of me, that was obscured by this post. It might be that in being particularly careful to look well to my right because of my visual impairment on that side, that I look right past something almost in front of me, but I believe it has to do with the design of the car and could happen to anyone.

"I didn't see you" is not good enough when someone fails to exercise the appropriate caution -- but, if you travel, either in a vehicle, on a bike or on foot, putting all the responsibility on others to be aware of you and anticipate your movements, or to not make a mistake, you're gonna have a bad day soon enough.

Drivers do all kinds of stupid stuff -- slowing or stopping when they're confused, swerving to avoid something in the road. Sometimes, they stop short when they didn't anticipate because they couldn't see ahead or they were momentarily looking in a mirror at traffic behind them -- not "stupid stuff" but just bad timing. Drivers definitely pose more of a hazard to other drivers than they do to bicyclists or pedestrians, of only because they're generally in closer proximity to other cars. The only reason there aren't exponentially more accidents is that drivers are often able to pick up cues and anticipate some of that stuff, or are able to react in time to avoid a collision.

The point is that accidents do happen -- and sometimes, they're not avoidable, even without anyone being criminally negligent. It's part of the human condition.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport


No. Yes, Yes.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 7, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

@Fischy: yeah, yeah, it's so hard to drive. what's interesting is that most of the time, despite everyone claiming that they personally are a careful driver, the accident happens because the driver isn't being very careful. (E.g., playing with the radio, or playing with the phone, or fixated on something, or looking for something.) If the penalties were more stronger and more routinely applied, people would suddenly find a reason to pay more attention to their driving. For example, they may slow down, they may leave more space, they may pull out partway and then look again rather than flooring it, etc. That's the point--there's a whole lot more that could be done to improve safety for everyone, rather than just writing it off as "stuff happens around cars".

by Mike on Nov 7, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

If you looked at some the pictures of the links you will see in one case the car ran through the bollards (and one of the concrete stops) and still made it into the store. How much of a barrier is enough?

by twk on Nov 7, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

Pedestrian and bicycle safety advocates have to operate in the real world. You're not going to convince a majority that a driver who exercised a reasonable degree of caution, but still caused an accident, needs to be punished.

Not gon' happen.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Well I think the most practical thing is to keep building better bike lanes and sidewalks that will get more people walking and cycling so that collision rates go down naturally which then helps people realize that it is hard out here for a pedestrian/cyclist which would then lead to the groundswell of support for changing the way we think about how we operate our vehicles.

Oops, I said too much.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport


are you addressing the contributory negligence issue, or the guy drives into retail store issue? IIUC some states already have contributory negligence (didnt DC just pass it?) We have lots of fines that apply to people who just make mistakes. I think its possible to see those laws more extensively enforced, at the margin.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

I found the whole point of the article, that making one's self more visible is unnecessary or even improper, silly. I found the secondary thesis, that what we need is harsehr punishment, similarly silly.

Make yourself more visible. As for comparative or contributory negligence rules, I do not favor a regime that allows insured parties to escape their duty to compensate in any instance where they are primarily at fault.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Other cars are easier to spot -- That's because they're more readily anticipated on the road and also because they're just so much bigger.

Motorists should also anticipate sidewalks and buildings. They should also anticipate pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedestrians and cyclists have to know that they're harder to see and should act with the greatest level of care.

Motorists should know that they are operating a potentially dangerous vehicle and should act with the greatest level of care.

by guest1 on Nov 7, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport


ie, I should not be yelled at by a motorist pulling out of an alley after she almost hits me when I am walking on a sidewalk. She yells, "Did you ever think you were in my way?!?"... ummm, I'm on a sidewalk.. you should expect a pedestrian on a side.

You should also expect a Dunkin Donuts.

by guest1 on Nov 7, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

I found the whole point of the article, that making one's self more visible is unnecessary or even improper, silly.

It's not that, it's the thought that says the only way to fix the problem is for pedestrians/cyclists to be more careful rather than looking at how we treat drivers at large is what's silly.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

Crickey7: you completely missed the point of the article. Let's try again: in a number of recent incidents in which pedestrians were injured or killed, police (who have not taken any enforcement action) have suggested that the best *and only* thing to be done is for pedestrians to be more visible. This article is pointing out that people driving cars can't even see entire buildings, so it seems likely that no amount of pedestrian visibility is going to prevent them from being run down by bad drivers. This suggests that the solution lies in correcting the bad driving rather than blaming the victim. I'm not sure how to fix the broken car culture that excuses bad driving apart from somehow penalizing people for bad driving, but I'm sure we're all open to suggestions.

Yes, it may be a good idea to also wear hi-viz clothing, but at the end of the day it's not going to help if the guy who runs over you is playing with his phone.

by Mike on Nov 7, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

You don't prevent many accidents be punishing the people who have them more harshly. That's not the way people work.

You can change the environment far more easily than you can change behavior. If they're not paying attention, redesign the infrastructure so that they do (via traffic calming), or at least they are going slower.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport


I happily accepted a reflective armband from FCDOT, and intend to wear it while walking at night.

But there are plenty of occasions where I am crossing a street at a market crosswalk, in broad daylight, and am abundantly visible, where cars fail to slow appropriately even after I am already in the crosswalk. If I am still alive, its because I ceded the ROW to them, though legally I was not obliged to.

Its too soon, in all likelihood, for this to become a priority for Fairfax Police. At least where I live. It had better become a priority in Tysons, or Tysons, with its 6 billion dollar transit investment, will fail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

"You don't prevent many accidents be punishing the people who have them more harshly. That's not the way people work."

I think punishing them more consistently would work. It neednt be that harsh.

And yes, we managed to change the culture on drunk driving.

We should change it on distracted driving.

If we can't do that, lets tax the cell phone providers to build gold standard bike/ped infrastructure everywhere - at a cost of billions. Propose that, and you will soon find said providers quickly turning to a regime of enforcement.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport


A: that's what I said earlier, at least about redesigning our streets.
B: We've had many discussion about even the terminology. "Accident" means no one is at fault. Not paying attention and hitting something is usually a good indicator that the inattentive person is at fault. There are plenty of examples in the story where it was inattention that caused the collision.
C: I don't want to punish people who have accidents, I want to make sure that we have rules that are aimed at ensuring that you operate the 1000lb plus machine that can go 90mph responsibly.A pedestrian who is careless is far less dangerous than a driver who is careless and we should account for that in our laws. Too often we just brush it aside.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7 you keep saying that, but it doesn't make it true. How 'bout we try actually enforcing the existing laws and see what happens? Yeah, it'll inconvenience some people who are sure that *their* bad behavior would never hurt anyone, but I'm willing to give it a shot anyway.

by Mike on Nov 7, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

We live in a world where Virginia could not even pass a dooring law. That's the real world, people. Get over it. Improve the laws where you can, not just where you might like to. Laws on distracted driving tied to use of electronic devices are realistic, other laws less so.

drumz, I think most people would define "accident" as still allowing that one side is ultimately at fault.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport


we came close and we will be trying all again. All three bills - the dooring bill, the due care bill, and the three foot passing bill will all be introduced at the next session.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

but most enforcement is up to local LE not changing laws in richmond. For that we can start at our local jurisdictions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport


Which is why I'm specific about my language. Using collision instead of accident (though sometimes I still slip).

I'd like to think that some of the improving is happening here by talking about it. Plenty of people read and don't comment and I might persuade some of them and they might think to call or write their delegate next time they're in session. Sorry, in a long enough comment thread there is always someone who basically says "but it'll never work" or "the political obstacles are too great" which implies the conversation we just had has no value. I disagree, I think it's all valuable.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

And if there happen, each will be because the ask was tightly limited in scope. I'd take none for granted.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

"these" happen

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Tying together today's most popular threads I have to think it is an inevitability that one of the stubborn and elderly CP Service Lane advocates will end up on a curb and into a store front, especially since there is just a 5 foot separation for most of the block and there is a crazy level of pedestrian activity through there so it is easy to be distracted and we already know most of these folks are confused.

Hell it wouldn't surprise me if one of them drives up on the curb to one of the ATM machines thinking it is a drive thru.

Hopefully no driver will end up on the curb on purpose trying settle a score with one of us myopic little twits from outside the neighborhood.

by Aldo Kelrast on Nov 7, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Now this is how a driver gets a big time ticket from the cops: crash into a donut shop.

by James on Nov 7, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

Interesting timing, someone drove into an MBTA station in Boston this morning..

Link here

by alex on Nov 7, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

I think that Ben is creating a false equivalency here, trying to compare the bright color scheme of Dunkin to the issue of road user visibility.

Frankly, so-called "bike ninjas" (and "MUP ninjas," which includes runners) who dress in dark, non-reflective garb, don't have lights, etc., are dangerous - both to themselves, and to fellow users of roads and MUPs. I am a vehicular cyclist, frequent pedestrian, and occasional driver, and fellow road users that don't make themselves visible create a huge risk.

I wrote about this on my blog last night:

Will lights and bright attire get rid of distracted driving? Hardly. Will they prevent all consequential interactions between road and trail users at night? No. But any variables in the "can I be seen and be safe" equation that can be controlled - be they lights, reflectors, bright clothing and bags, et al - should be.

Cyclists and pedestrians don't have the laws of physics on their side when it comes to sudden deceleration or impact. Visibility can help make the likelihood of impact and accidents lower, be it on the street, on the sidewalk, or on the MUP.

by randomduck on Nov 7, 2013 5:13 pm • linkreport

Crickey: part of the "not going to be punished" problem is that we almost have a binary system of enforcement: if you are drunk and kill someone, its jail time. Below that, not so much. Why not points deductions, fines etc.

by SJE on Nov 7, 2013 6:38 pm • linkreport

It needs to be tied to activity or behavior that the general public will accept as unreasonable, reckless or unacceptably dangerous. If you tie it to a standard that looks like momentary inattentiveness, it will not ever become the law. That's just a political reality.

If the average driver thinks that could be them, you lose.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 6:51 pm • linkreport

Engineering, enforcement, and education can all help. Over time, better engineering will probably matter more--but at the margin, enforcement may be more effective. Why should a suburban county planning to spend $20 million/yaer to improve bike-ped infrastructure and barely make a dent outside of a few places, be so reluctant to spend $1 million/year on enforcement?

The term "accident" does not mean without fault. It means that the crash was not deliberate or possibly lacking criminal culpability. Compare homicide to accidental death.

While there is also a trend to use "crash" instead of "accident", the reason is that accident seems to imply (to some) that the event is totally random and could not have been forseen--unpredictable. Maryland law used "accident" rather than crash, so at least in Maryland, the term accident is fairly neutral.

by Jim Titus on Nov 7, 2013 9:35 pm • linkreport

@randomduck: you're still arguing a straw man. the issue is that there are a number of reported incidents where the police blame victims for not being visible enough, rather than blaming people who are bad drivers. note that, while you're frantically arguing against the specter of ninjas, several of the victim blaming incidents occurred during the day.

by Mike on Nov 8, 2013 7:25 am • linkreport

Fischy: you might be surprised to find out that simple negligence is a crime when driving a car, even if no harm or injury results: look up 'negligent driving' or 'negligent operation of a motor vehicle'.

Same can be said about other kinds of acts of negligence, if you look into it, because the public must constrain negligent acts in order to have a reasonable chance if improving safety. So, yes, negligence is often illegal.

What you seem to be saying is that there is a strong legal presumption that such incidents are accidental and both parties contributed, so there is 'no fault'. A failure to show proper caution is never an accident, it is a deliberate and willful decision by a vehicle operator to put others in harms way. If somewhen broke you loved ones leg because he was house shopping and not paying attention, you'd quickly get the distinction.

by Solution giver on Nov 10, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

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