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"Metro Kills:" Ghastly Sight, No Solution

Pedestrian death, like drug addiction and teenage pregnancy, is one of those issues that everyone agrees is a blight upon the land, a serious yet seemingly eternal problem that eludes practical solutions and frustrates the governed and the elected alike.

We happen to be in one of those occasional spates of high-profile pedestrian deaths-by-motorist, and so last week's sentencing of Metrobus driver Victor Kolako to a year behind bars after he killed two women at a downtown D.C. intersection was a nice gesture on the part of the justice system, a signal that at least someone takes these cases seriously.

But despite Metro's assurance that it will beef up safety training for its drivers, the fact remains that anyone who regularly rides the buses--or walks the sidewalks--knows that some drivers believe the size of their vehicle gives them the right to ignore traffic lights, barrel through stop signs, and give pedestrians the scare of their lives--or worse.

So it's important and probably good to have a truly ghastly and horrifying bit of video available on the web, taken from a nearby security camera, showing Kolako in the act of killing Martha Stringer Schoenborn and Sally Dean McGhee at 7th and Pennsylvania NW last Feb. 14. WARNING: The video on this link is extremely disturbing; you will not forget it and you may regret watching it. Taken from the top of the National Archives building, it shows the scene in the moments before, during and after the bus slammed straight into the two women, throwing and crushing them to death. Do not watch this if you are faint of heart.

I suppose some will consider this traffic-carnage porn, and surely there is something deeply voyeuristic and macabre about watching this horrific incident unfold again and again. But it's also essential, if we are to get serious about making the streets safer for people to walk, that we confront exactly how cavalierly some drivers treat intersections and crosswalks. It's in that spirit that I link to the video. Please come ahead with your thoughts and reactions.

UPDATE (12/17): This item has been revised to remove a sentence about who placed the video online. The source of the "Metro Kills" web site is not clear.

By Marc Fisher |  December 11, 2007; 6:58 AM ET
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Comments

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the thing that i find truly disgusting is that the bus driver only got one year in prison.

Posted by: IMGoph | December 11, 2007 7:43 AM

He only got two years in prison? The man should be indicted for first degree murder and recieve the maximum sentence!! 20-25 years is more than appropriate. Two years? Seriously....

Posted by: NMQN | December 11, 2007 8:46 AM

My mistake..he only got a year in prison. I guess that was wishful thinking about getting 2 years.

Posted by: NMQN | December 11, 2007 8:48 AM

It's not just Metro, of course. Minutes ago I was nearly run over at the corner of 19th and L Street, NW. A pushy driver decided it's okay to swing into the crosswalk even though it's filled with pedestrians. Beyond that, I agree that the sentence (one year) is too light. I can't say what the solution is, but someday I hope we find it before my turn comes up.

Posted by: Friend of Jakes | December 11, 2007 9:10 AM

And let's all remember the icy conditions last February 14. The bus was going too fast for conditions and should not have expected two pedestrians to hurry along.

It's enough to make a pedestrian stay home on an icy or snowy day. In this town, you risk either falling because sidewalks aren't clean or getting hit by a vehicle speeding through an intersection.

Posted by: mdreader01 | December 11, 2007 9:13 AM

The accident is tragic, and there is no doubt that the driver is rightfully paying for not having given right of way. I wasn't at the trial, so I won't comment on the length of the sentence. I will however comment on another issue: the number of public safety individuals who turned up after the accident. As a taxpayer, I must say I am always completely amazed at how in the District any incident (and I do mean "any" incident) brings the whole crowd out. Everyone from the police to the fire trucks and finally to the ambulance which couldn't even get where it needed to be because of all the public safety worker gawkers who were blocking the way. With all the costs inherent to maintaining all these public safety workers and their vehicles we have to wonder what kind of value we the taxpayer are getting when rather than be doing their work they are allowed to ALL respond and turn the incident into a gawk fest. I've witnessed these occurences many times prior and it's very clear that very few of the public safety workers on a scene such as this (or usually of far less severity) actually need to be there. Were this private enterprise, any company sending out so many "back ups" would quickly go out of business. Why do we as taxpayers allow our taxes to be so frivolously wasted?

Posted by: DC Taxpayer | December 11, 2007 9:15 AM

I was inclined to give the driver the benefit of the doubt for a simple though horrific mistake of not seeing someone in the dark. But the video erases any such benefit of the doubt. Two things in this regard are evident from the video.

1. The bus driver was clearly bullying his way through the intersection. Had the driver of the oncoming car not applied the brakes, the car would have collided with the bus. Had the driver not been so intent on getting through the intersection in defiance of the reality of oncoming traffic, he would have seen the women who were so plainly visible through his side window. The driver's failure to see the pedestrians was clearly a direct result of the bullying tactic he was employing vis a vis oncoming cars.

2. Given the age of the pedestrians who were killed, I imagined when I first read the news account that the speed with which they could move through the intersection contributed to the accident. Though this would not absolve the bus driver of responsibility, it could be a mitigating factor regarding the degree of his negligence. But again the video belies my original supposition. The women were moving with great speed and alacrity through the intersection. Had I been them, I would never have guessed that the bus was about to do what it did. I honestly believe that an NFL quarterback could not have escaped death had he been where these women were. This is further testimony to the culpability of the bus driver, as his bullying tactics were the sole cause of this tragedy, with no other contributing factors evident from the video.

So I agree that a one-year sentence is far too lenient. I applaud the courageous decision of the women's families in releasing the video. How painful that must be for them; but I'm sure they understand that it is our best hope for inciting action to deter such behavior on the part of metro bus drivers in the future.

I hope we will not disappoint them in this, but I must admit I'm not very optimistic, given the way these things usually play out in a city like Washington D.C. Perhaps the families can at least take comfort that the video served to warn me that I and those I love must be extremely vigilant when walking anywhere near a metro bus. I consider myself a safe pedestrian, but I don't generally walk around assuming that a bus would do what this bus did. Had I been where these women were, I would certainly have been killed. I will not forget that lesson.

Posted by: Mark | December 11, 2007 9:23 AM

Jesus, this was an accident. This guy did not mean to kill those women. What if everytime you were in an accident, you were sent to prison? Don't you think this guy feels like hell? He is probably a decent person and now he has to live with the fact that he killed someone. Unless you are perfect, and never ever commit traffic violations or drive inattentively, this could be you.

Posted by: tdd | December 11, 2007 9:26 AM

That intersection is awful and the video is simply unbelievable. How could that driver have not seen those women. And if he saw them, did he think they'd be able to jump out of the way?

Shortly after this accident (I think) there was a left turn arrow installed at that intersection. It is red for a little bit while pedestrians are supposed to cross then the pedestrians lose the walk signal and the arrow turns green. Neither period is long enough...people cannot get across the street in the time allotted to the walk sign, and only one or two vehicles get through on the green arrow. This leads to both people and cars taking risks to get through the intersection.

Posted by: Cathy | December 11, 2007 9:27 AM

Jesus, this was an accident. This guy did not mean to kill those women

----

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When you hit someone it's no accident. period. grow up and stop trying to assign blame to fairies and dragons and "accidents"- he is at fault.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 9:36 AM

It's not just drivers. The other night I almost nailed a pedestrian who decided that since my light was turning yellow that he's get a head start. It's a yellow, this is America, I wanted to beat it. Sure I should have slowed to a stop BUT he should have stayed on the curb until he got the walk signal. Bottom line if you're a pedestrian, YOU need to watch out for 4,000+ pound vehicles and 20,000+ pound Metro buses; they may be wrong, but you'll be dead.

Posted by: Stick | December 11, 2007 9:41 AM

Regarding tdd's comment:
"Unless you are perfect, and never ever commit traffic violations or drive inattentively, this could be you."

Exactly. Of course the driver didn't intend to hit the pedestrians. In all the close calls I've had as a biker and pedestrian in this town, rarely does the driver intended to endanger me. The flip side of that is that the driver rarely shows any remorse for his actions. In fact, I'm the one getting blamed most of the time.
When I do have the opportunity to confront the driver, what do you think their excuse is?

Sorry, I didn't see you.

Gee, really? Maybe that's because you weren't looking.

That isn't an accident; that is negligence.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 9:43 AM

Stick says:

"Bottom line if you're a pedestrian, YOU need to watch out for 4,000+ pound vehicles and 20,000+ pound Metro buses; they may be wrong, but you'll be dead."

And you will have still killed a person. But knowing that you're "right" will assuage any feelings of guilt, I'm sure.

Sounds like you work for Metro.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 9:48 AM

After viewing the video, it is a clear case of manslaughter - anyone driving a bus should regularly call to mind the size and power of their vehicle's power and massiveness. This driver, Victor Kolako, turned the bus into the intersection with the speed of a sports car driver - clearly oblivious to anyone else's rights to the space into which he was barging like a bull. One year in jail is NOT SUFFICIENT for the crime he committed with his vehicle. As many other commenters have said, in effect, "it could have been anyone walking in that crosswalk - even an athlete - the result would have been the same: pedestrian death." What experienced pedestrian would expect a bus (or a car or a truck) to make such a clearly wrong, bad, and dangerous maneuver? I wouldn't have (before seeing the video), and I'm a DC native in my mid-fifties.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | December 11, 2007 9:53 AM

@Stick

You will still be going to jail and possibly suffering the same fate as the person you hit.

@tdd

Turn in your driver's license now. It's called involuntary manslaughter. You weren't paying attention, you ran someone over, you killed them, but it's ok because you didn't mean to. The jails are filled with murderers who "didn't mean to" kill the person or people they did. Should we let them all go too? What a complete and utter waste of a human to think that this guy should be let off with a slap on the wrist because he "didn't mean to". Then we wonder what's wrong with our society.

Posted by: Jarrod | December 11, 2007 9:58 AM

A truly awful video. However, I was always under the impression that Kolako deserved jail time for this. As a trained, professional bus driver, with the lives of riders on and off the bus in your hands, you are held to a higher standard. If the culture at Metro doesn't allow for the acknowledgement of that basic fact, then my fears are confirmed and there are serious, deadly problems in that organization.

Posted by: Tim | December 11, 2007 9:59 AM

I can't watch the video; 4 years clerking for a local police department (which included pulling files containing crime scene photos for investigators) and a healthy imagination suffice. Bus drivers are a problem, for sure, but the closest I ever came to being run down in a crosswalk was by a cab and a bicyle messenger. Why not set up random sting operations at heavily used crosswalks? Some hefty fines and negative publicity for the cab or messenger company would encourage more respect for pedestrians.

Posted by: 14th&K | December 11, 2007 10:02 AM

This is what car culture has led to: the death of two people is somehow not so bad as it would be in other circumstances, because they were killed by a motor vehicle. Why is it an excuse that the driver didn't see the victims--we don't accept that as an excuse for users of firearms, or of chainsaws, or of anything else that is inherently dangerous. Have we collectively decided that cutting down our travel times by a few seconds is such an enormous benefit to society that we need to accept the occasional death?

The first step, as Mr. Fisher has done, is to stop referring to collisions like this as "accidents." The word "accident" implies that there is no fault and no responsibility, only fate.

Posted by: thm | December 11, 2007 10:08 AM

As a regular transportational cyclist, I can say there is no class of vehicles I fear more than metrobuses. The disregard the drivers show for other users of the road is staggering.

Posted by: 2 wheeler | December 11, 2007 10:10 AM

A day after the bus driver was sentenced to a year in prison it was apparent to me that it's business as usual with Metrobus drivers. They routinely run red lights, change lanes without signalling, bully their way through traffic, and have complete disregard for pedestrians. There will be more pedestrian deaths in the future by Metrobus drivers. Count on it.

Posted by: Metrobus Drivers Are Not Getting The Message | December 11, 2007 10:19 AM

Stick's comment about wanting to "beat the yellow" kind of makes me want to beat him. That kind of driver's attitude of just wanting to get that little extra is what causes traffic jams, accidents, and injuries.

However, his point about pedestrians is dead on. Many many pedestrians are guilty of exactly the same thing, and quite frankly the several seconds you shave off your walk to the office or whatever is going to be pretty insignificant even if you *don't* get hit by a turning vehicle or a passing bus. Pedestrians should cross at crosswalks *with* the signal and stay out of the street otherwise.

Posted by: Doppler | December 11, 2007 10:21 AM

Everyone needs to be more responsible on the roads:

Cyclists need to stop at red lights, signal their turns, etc. just as everybody else on the roadway does. You want to be on the road, obey the rules.

Pedestrian need to cross only at the crosswalk with the signal, especially at night. I cannot count the number of times I have had to slam on my brakes while driving appropriately for the conditions because some idiot decided to wander across the road right in front of my oncoming car. People, you are not bigger and tougher than my car.

Drivers needs to drive appropriately for the conditions. This does not mean just obey the speed limit. It means if it is raining or snowing, slow down. If you are going through an uncrowded intersection, don't inch. If it is crowded, wait for it to clear. Do not pull out suddenly in front of vehicles.

If everyone remembered they were not the only ones out there trying to get someplace, a lot fewer incidents would occur.

Posted by: ep | December 11, 2007 10:26 AM

In addition to the sentence, the Metropolitan Police Department needs to improve its traffic enforcement significantly. DDOT needs to adjust traffic light timing in more favor of pedestrians.

I live in the District and walk or bike to work. Virtually every day, I witness cars accelerating on yellow lights, continuining through intersections after the light turns red, and making illegal u-turns in any intersection at anytime.

Also, DDOT needs to adjust timing of lights at many intersections to respect pedestrian safety. Near my home around Stanton Park in NE, the lights that allow pedestrians to cross 4 lanes of traffic on C Street NE are only 15 seconds. Plus, the intersections are in front of an elementary school.

Posted by: Traffic Enforcement? | December 11, 2007 10:29 AM

While this Metro bus driver is rightfully being held responsible for his actions, the MPD officer who struck and killed a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk in NW apparently is not. The Fenty administration will not release any information, but I've heard off-the-record that he will face no penalty--either from MPD or criminally. Now that's criminal. Unfortunately, the average citizen cannot get information and the Post is not following up on this.

Posted by: dcped | December 11, 2007 10:32 AM

Yes, one year is not enough for the two lives lost and this bus driver was clearly in a hurry when he made that left turn.

Not that the following is a reason for excusing the results: it appears that the two women were crossing against the walk light. Look at the video again, I needed to look at it a second time because I was not looking at the right spot the first time. It looks as though that street has split walk lights, one for the lower side (the first side that the women crossed) which was green at the time; the upper half (the side of the street that the bus hit them) seems to be red. I watched them cycle through before the women started crossing. It is like they are timed more for the other direction than the one the women were going. The two are not the same at the same time; this is confusing.

The bus driver still should have seen the movement of the women crossing and waited for them to clear before proceeding and he clearly did not to that! Death is not a rational punishment for jay walking!

Posted by: Historian | December 11, 2007 10:39 AM

This just confirms my suspicion that the bus driver did this on purpose. At a minimum he should be in jail for 20 years. In reality he should get the death penalty (and not by lethal injection but by the families running him over with a metrobus.)

Posted by: ugh | December 11, 2007 10:41 AM

I really wish I hadn't watched that video.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | December 11, 2007 10:42 AM

Historian: The Post article that Marc links to contains the following:

The women were in the crosswalk, and the "walk" signal was illuminated.

I agree Arlington, I wish I hadn't watch the video either.

Posted by: Washington, DC | December 11, 2007 10:46 AM

Absolutely this bus driver has earned his year behind bars -- and hopefully lives uncomfortably with the guilt the rest of his life. All drivers need to exhibit a bit of patience. Too many seem to feel they're exempt from law and courtesy.

On the flip side, I've seen more pedestrians doing stupid things and causing car difficulties than I've ever seen cars causing to pedestrians -- the difference is when cars impact pedestrians, the consequences are bigger. But pedestrians cause cars to slam on their brakes, shift lanes suddenly, come to a complete stop at intersections where they have a green light, and other such nonsense.

These ladies were in the right and did nothing to deserve such horrible consquences. Other pedestrians cannot say the same.

Let's all give each other a break (and a brake)!

Posted by: G.D.H. | December 11, 2007 10:46 AM

He didn't even slow down after hitting them... disgusting.

Posted by: Brooke | December 11, 2007 10:47 AM

I've lived in DC for nine years and walked a total of at least a mile each workday. Not once -- NOT ONCE! -- have I seen the DC police ticket a Metrobus. I haven't even seen DC police ticket a car that scatters pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Management studies and behavioral psychologists agree: you change behavior through high-probability, small penalties (tickets) not through low-probability, large penalties (jail sentences). I support this jail sentence but it won't have much of a practical effect. DC needs to ticket its drivers, and very frequently, until this problem gets under control.

Posted by: RowerinVA | December 11, 2007 10:52 AM

Dear DC Taxpayer,

Don't talk about things you know nothing about. You should be thankful that there are emergency service that show up regardless of the quadrant of the city or the time of day. If you consider all of the things that don't get done right in the District, this was ray of hope. A cab driver blocked the lane so the people were not struck again. There was a DCFD engine company with trained paramedics and/or EMTs who commenced care. There were police who stopped the traffic to allow the emergency worker space to perform their duties without being worried about getting run over. There were at least two medic units who were able to transport the patients quickly. There was a rescue squad that lighted the scene and had specialized equipment if the victims were trapped under the bus. Would that the rest of the government work so well.

Posted by: mikeinburtonsville | December 11, 2007 10:53 AM

I live in Alexandria on a semi-busy street, and the metro bus that goes through (the #9A) routinely runs the red light at the corner. The drivers usually speed up when they see it turn yellow, even if they're half a block away.

It's gotten worse now that road construction is forcing the bus to make a turn at that corner -- now they just make a right on red while barely slowing down. I've been amazed that a Metro bus hasn't hit a car coming the other way on a green light yet.

Posted by: joe | December 11, 2007 10:59 AM

That is a disturbing video that clearly highlights the busdriver's disregard. He not only dangerously cut off some cars making that ridiculous left turn into immediately oncoming traffic(endangering his and their passengers), but failed to even slow down after running those people over. He got off easy with one year.

Posted by: bigeugene | December 11, 2007 11:02 AM

One thing I will never understand: bus drivers who speed--as a bus driver, you are "on the clock"--you are getting paid to sit in traffic, heavy or light.

Posted by: CPS | December 11, 2007 11:10 AM

It's definitely not just Metrobuses. I live 2 blocks north of the intersection at Archives, and am almost hit on a daily basis crossing D Street just west of 7th. In the morning en route to the Metro, and in the evening walking back home from the Metro, I see cars of all types blow through red lights there, cars turn onto D from 7th at high speeds whether or not any pedestrians are crossing......it's crazy.

Motorists in this city definitely do not care about pedestrian safety. They almost act like they're in a video game and will win points by hitting us! :(

(And yes, we pedestrians must take responsibility for being aware and respecting traffic signals.....it srives me crazy to see people standing in the street waiting for the light to turn!)

Posted by: PQ | December 11, 2007 11:11 AM

I've always heard if you want to kill someone, run them over with your car.

Sure seems to be the case here. Had the bus driver been drunk, he might have gotten more time. Just driving like a jagoff though seems to work just fine.

Like anyone else who has spent time in the District, I watch out for Metrobus, because this is NOT an isolated incident.

Posted by: John Lease | December 11, 2007 11:17 AM

No, the driver did not, as one writer suggested, do this on purpose. I'm not trying to justify what happened but as anyone driving in the district, the Metro area for that matter, knows there are multiple things going on when driving. Was it an accident that could have been prevented? Of course. Most accidents can be prevented. But, things happen, and this might make other Metro drivers more conscious of what's happening and what they're doing, but it's unlikely to make anyone else care about how they drive.

What I have problem with is the columns comment "...last week's sentencing of Metrobus driver Victor Kolako to a year behind bars after he killed two women at a downtown D.C. intersection was a nice gesture on the part of the justice system, a signal that at least someone takes these cases seriously."

No, it was not a gesture on the part of the justice system, and no it was not nice. It was the justice system doing it's job under the circumstances. There was nothing nice about what happened in any way.

Posted by: Long time DC Resident | December 11, 2007 11:18 AM

I was at FedEx field last Thursday for the Redskins game and one of the suggested ways to get to the stadium is, get out at the Morgan Blvd blue line stop, and walk. So we did - the sidewalks were icy and the stoplight on Morgan Blvd isn't working - vehicles are speeding by at 40+ miles an hour while a crowd of pedestrians is trying to cross. And of course some of them have been tailgating before the game. It's an accident waiting to happen..

Posted by: dupont circle | December 11, 2007 11:19 AM

All too often you can witness a Metro bus speeding up to beat a red light. More often than not, the light is already red BEFORE the bus even enters the intersection. This scene plays out countless times a day withing sight of City Hall steps on 11th street.

I would welcome more (as if there is ANY) traffic enforcement to prevent these renegade drivers from maiming, injuring, or killing anymore innocents!

Posted by: MacDad | December 11, 2007 11:34 AM

I was hit by a Metrobus while on my bike, and I'm a stop-for-the-light, always-signal-my-turns cyclist. I was almost hit while walking in a crosswalk with the light, the driver looking right at me. As a passenger on a bus I got into an argument with a driver who was mad that he had to stop quickly for a pedestrian in a zebra crossing. He was going too fast on a busy commercial strip with lots of zebra crossings that bus drivers regularly ignore. All these incidents happened in broad daylight, by the way.

Wonder what happened with the Metro driver who hit and killed a young woman at 16th & Park Rd. NW around the same time? There are still memorial flowers out there for her.

I appreciate what the families of the women in the video (which I don't have the heart to watch) have done to help get justice. Bless them.

Posted by: Look Out, Here Comes a Metro Bus! | December 11, 2007 11:39 AM

The comments here simply demonstrate the call for making pedestrians safer in the city. If that means delays for vehicular traffic, then so what?

Create bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrian signals. If individual drivers want to deal with it, it will be their choice, but human beings should have the right to walk places without fear of the carnage extracted.

Posted by: Scared Pedestrian | December 11, 2007 11:50 AM

I have always joked that Metro has a final test for its bus drivers - they give them an obstacle course with cardboard cutouts of humans and if the busdriver runs the course and leaves one standing then he doesn't get the job. After all Metro is looking for a perfect score.

After watching the video, I realize it is not a joking matter. Like all the other posts, I can't believe they didn't throw the book at the driver. The ladies were in the right and to me look like he deliberately hit them. Metro should hang its head in eternal shame for the arrogance of their employees!

Posted by: dre7861 | December 11, 2007 11:56 AM

I looked at this video over and over to see the cross walk light and while the light in the median is lit for pedestrians to walk, it looks like the one on the other side of the street is flashing red. Although the flashing crossing light reflects that it is okay to cross the street, doesn't it also mean caution and limit the time to cross down to the second. The bus driver was DEFINITELY in the wrong due to the fact that it was a pedestrian in the crosswalk but I thought I should make this point.

Posted by: Nancy | December 11, 2007 11:58 AM

I've watched the video three times. I'm not sure how the bus driver was unable to see the women. I continued watching the video for some time after the women were run over, and I can't tell if the bus driver returned to the scene. If I had been a juror on this case, I would have held out for a minimum of three years in jail for the driver.

Responsibility for safety lies with both drivers and pedestrians. Drivers need to respect crosswalks and walk lights, and pedestrians should always stop, look and listen before attempting to cross a street. Pedestrians should NEVER assume they have the right of way when they are attempting to cross OUTSIDE A CROSSWALK, WITHOUT A WALK LIGHT.

One safety tactic that is taught to bicyclists should also be used by pedestrians: MAKE EYE CONTACT with any vehicle that may cross your path while you're crossing the street. As another poster writes, sometimes even this tactic does not work, but it is most effective at reducing instances of "I didn't see them."

And one more thing: pedestrians and cyclists should make damn sure to wear reflective clothing and/or light themselves when hey are out at night, particularly now, in the dark of the year.

Posted by: Mister Methane | December 11, 2007 11:58 AM

Thank you for posting this. Already saw this. Of course, it's very disturbing, but it's important that people do see this. The bus driver also nearly got into an accident with the cars coming in the opposite lane, turning quickly to cut ahead of them and paying zero attention to pedestrians in the crosswalk, as one horrifyingly sees in this video footage.

Posted by: Kate | December 11, 2007 12:18 PM

How can a bus hit two women and not notice anything unusual. I find this very hard to believe. Maybe they should test this out with "dummies". If he didn't stop after hitting them, he should have gotten many more years.... Also, what did the passengers notice?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 12:32 PM

Also strongly suggest that if you see a bus driver that is negligent and dangerous, DO contact Metro and report them. If possible, get the ID number of the bus and other information. They have responded back to me, in the past.

http://www.wmata.com/riding/ridercomment.cfm

If the response from Metro is unsatisfactory, then try contacting the General Manager and/or the Board of Directors.

http://www.wmata.com/about/board_gm/board.cfm

Metro also does occasional online lunchtime chats, with the WMATA General Manager. He has answered my questions in the past.

http://www.wmata.com/chat/chatsList.cfm?fromMenu=Outreach.3

It's important that they are aware of your general concerns about this, as well as if you see something specific to report.

Posted by: Kate | December 11, 2007 12:34 PM

I believe I saw an MPD ticketing someone for a moving violation this morning. It caught my eye because it's the first time in 25 years of being a DC pedestrian that I've seen it. It is obvious that most drivers either do not know basic driving rules, like stopping well clear of crosswalks, or do not care. The not caring is supported and promoted by the zero risk of being ticketed. Until more drivers lose the incentive to drive because they run up fines every time they leave the driveway, or lose the right to drive and become pedestrians themselves, we are all at risk.

Barney Fife was more on the job.

Posted by: Lisa | December 11, 2007 12:42 PM

Couldn't tell if any chunks of time were removed from the video but I was impressed how quickly the police were on the scene.

Posted by: Kevin | December 11, 2007 1:13 PM

I had the amazement of watching a Fairfax Connector bus driver get bored of waiting for a light to change and pull slowly out into an intersection against a light. I was travelling north on Hayfield, waiting to make a left turn onto Manchester Lakes Blvd. The bus came out into the intersection (through a red light)from the shopping plaza to the north. One car was in the intersection headed westbound, waiting to turn south onto Hayfield. East bound traffic must have been stopped at the next light upstream. The bus did miss that car but scraped the front grill of another car coming west bound through the intersection. Simply amazing.

Posted by: John D. | December 11, 2007 1:27 PM

Did the driver ever stop? The bus leaves the video pretty quickly, so it's not clear if he pulled over and waited. Was this a hit and run?

Posted by: md | December 11, 2007 1:41 PM

Watching this was heartbreaking.

Since moving to Michigan Park in Upper NE from Adams Morgan, I am absolutely appalled at the speeds & driver behavior of E2 & E3 Metrobuses along South Dakota Avenue. My constant requests of WMATA to do something...anything to slow these buses down has resulted in jack-sh*t being done. Despite WMATA's written assurances that they take "safety very seriously", nothing is done! How about the bus driver talking on her cell phone, or the one drinking a can of soda? Or the numerous buses that barrel past my house in excess of 40 mph (posted speed is 25)?

So I continue to dutifully record the bus #, time and direction, and continue to report these offenders to Mr. Robert Ballard and Mr. Catoe, WMATA's GM, as per their instructions.

Only a year sentence? That's unconscionable. But not surprising given the apparent lack of concern at WMATA.

Posted by: Tom from Michigan Park | December 11, 2007 1:41 PM

As disturbing as the video was, posting it here served a purpose for at least one person (me). It was a harsh, gruesome reminder to me to slow the heck down when driving and be more careful. And it also reminded me to be more alert when walking.

This next part is related, but not directly, because the women here did absolutely nothing wrong. But it seems like a good place to put this observation. I commute to work downtown sometimes on subway, sometimes in my car. I have to say, we all, drivers and pedestrians, have work to do. Drivers don't give pedestrians the right of way; pedestrians jaywalk or disregard flashing don't walk signals (observe 15th between H and M on any given morning to see what I mean) (again, I am NOT including these poor women in this group); bikers weave in and out of lanes; buses pull out from bus stops without looking. It all leads to distrusting each other and feeling like we have to push the limits. Drivers bully in front of pedestrians because pedestrians don't stop when it starts flashing. Pedestrians cross whenever because drivers don't stop for them at cross walks. Buses bully out of bus stops because other cars don't let them in when they try to merge the right way. NO ONE seems to use a turn signal anymore because they think people won't let them merge.
We're all so darn selfish we forget that traffic laws are there for a reason.
Stop the vicious cycle. Respect each other.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 1:42 PM

knowing the area, it is typically dark so I sympathized with both the victim and the driver. I've almost hit people along that corridor. but this guy was blatantly negligent in his driving. He never looked left to watch for walkers. did he deserve more time, I still don't know. but you cannot help but marvel that people that killed dogs got more time.

Posted by: robgreg | December 11, 2007 1:43 PM

I'm assuming the driver did stop given the extent of the impact. And a mere year in jail is just a slap on the wrist. Did Metro fire him? Is he forbidden from ever driving a bus again?

Posted by: Disgusted | December 11, 2007 1:50 PM

Metrobus drivers are supposed to be on a schedule, and I imagine they speed, etc to keep on schedule regardless of whether or not it's rush hour, because their jobs depend on it. Not to mention that cars will NOT let buses in front of them. All the lack of courtesy makes for miserable, law-breaking driving.

Posted by: atb | December 11, 2007 2:07 PM

Not to belabor Mr. Fisher's point, but I routinely see Metro buses driving through traffic lights after they have turned red. Bus drivers seem to think if they are within sight of the light when it is green then they have the go-ahead. I have emailed WMATA about this on many occassions (providing the bus number, route number, time of day, etc.) to report dangerous driving and have never even received a response.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 2:08 PM

I hope all you vindictive p*ssies burn in hell.

Posted by: Fred | December 11, 2007 2:30 PM

This kind of thing is typical of a growing area like this one. Its definitely a sign that in the future we need more sustainable development and probably some better monitoring of mass transit employees.

However all of the comments about how he should've gotten way more time show an ignorance of how the law works. I wasn't at the courthouse but if the reporting on the incident is to be believed this is a pretty text book case of involuntary manslaughter, a crime for which 1 year in jail is pretty normal. The law draws distinctions between those with the intention to kill and those who make mistakes (still certainly reckless) for a good reason. If some of you had your way every single car accident that involved some negligence and resulted in a death would lead to life in prison. I feel for the victims and their families but grow up and get real.

Posted by: Some Idiot | December 11, 2007 2:35 PM

I won't watch the video, I'm not interested in seeing innocent women die. I've smart enough and have enough of an imagination to figure this out without it. I see no benefit to wathching the video whatsoever. One year in jail isn't enough, but in general vehicular manslaughter doesn't carry a lot of time. Tdd, it wasn't an accident, it was negligence. You are responsible for your vehicle and anything that happens as a result of you driving it, and if you screw up there are penalties. CPS, why do they speed? Because they're under pressure to make all of their stops on time. I was on a Ride On bus one time and the driver got a call from HQ telling him that he wasn't making schedule. He pretty much went crazy. He started muttering, "not on schedule?! Not on schedule?! You want me on schedule? I'll show you how to make schedule!" He yelled out to everyone in general, "hold on!" and he proceeded to drive that bus through the side streets of Montgomery County like he was on a Nascar track. It was pretty wild, but everyone held on and no one got hurt or anything. Anyway, I figure that's why they speed. I think the bosses get on them if they're not on schedule, so they do whatever they have to.

Posted by: Dad | December 11, 2007 2:44 PM

While I am highly critical of bad drivers and this metrobus driver in particular, I was recently at a safety meeting where a mother told this story (it's translated, so I think I got most of what she was saying):

The police do nothing to ticket bad drivers. Many nights I have to cross from the bus stop to my apartment building. I hold my hand up so the cars know where I am, but they almost never slow down soon enough and almost always honk at me when they pass me.

True quote. Here is a pedestrian crossing in the middle of a four lane road who walks in the middle of the road, not at the intersection, and complains about the drivers being angry. I have never had a close call with a pedestrian, but I know of several times where I looked in my rearview mirror, then back to the road and there was a pedestrian several yards in front of me where they should not be.

I once drove to work and after a cyclist yelled at me I counted every time I saw a cyclist run a red light- I saw 19 of these incidents that morning. I'm not talking about minor bike offenses like not using one's bike bell or no hand signals, I mean disobeying a red light.

This has no bearing on this case, but I wanted

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 2:47 PM

I just can not believe the number of people who did not stop, who just drove off. That makes me sick.

Posted by: Dee Dee | December 11, 2007 3:02 PM

The video is not very disturbing sense it's a wide shot. But it is various obvious the bus driver was at fault. A writer mark made the same observations I did. The bus driver bullied his way through the intersection cutting off on coming traffic. I didn't think one of those buses could move that fast. If he hadn't have been in such a rush and waited this accident would have never have happened. When I first heard the verdict I thought it was to much, after watching the video I think it was to little.

Posted by: Robert G | December 11, 2007 3:02 PM

"Bottom line if you're a pedestrian, YOU need to watch out for 4,000+ pound vehicles and 20,000+ pound Metro buses; they may be wrong, but you'll be dead."

Unfortunately, that's the attitude that too many Metro bus drivers take. And that's why these poor women are dead.

did the poster ever take drivers ed? Pedestrians always have the right of way. They may be crossing legally or illegally, but they still have the right of way. even if someone were crossing against the light, a traffic violation wouldn't warrant death penalty by bus.

Posted by: Steven Dolley | December 11, 2007 3:04 PM

Two lives gone, families shattered and the killer will be walking free after a year or so, and the authorities will increase the fare to keep the same negligent people employed. Mr. Fisher will post more provocative blogs, which will trigger lots of reactions from us serious readers, thinking that our fingers are doing the portest necessary to put an end to this. This is all a wastage of time. What is needed is a concerted effort to push our representatives to bring a culture of accountability to Metro. I doubt the myriad of 'traffic' writers like Mr. Fisher or Dr. Gridlock do anything substantive for the cause of the average metro rider...they just 'ride' on the news!

Posted by: Subrato | December 11, 2007 3:05 PM

I watched the video this morning, but I waited to comment, so as to minimize the likelihood of inflaming either side of the debate.

The video itself wasn't particularly gruesome, as the resolution and distance weren't sharp and close enough for me to see anything except that the women were running to the other side one second, and the next second, they were on the ground.

What really sickens me about this incident, besides the apparent hit-and-run of the bus driver was that these women may have been scared that the bus would hit them, and then it did. In other words, if they had time to see the bus, then they most likely tried to speed up to get out of the way, and yet it was too late.
About two years ago, I was almost hit at a Greyhound station, and I got out of the way with less than half a second. (It literally felt like an angel, or something divine got me out of the way just in time.)
But the two ladies, Martha and Sally, seemed to not have a choice. And that's what sickens me. This man could have slowed down. He, like other bus drivers, could have chosen to take his job seriously and obey the rules of the road. Instead, his nonchalant attitude cost two women their lives and left their families with pain.

I'm sure the guy feels like crap and maybe feels remorse, but the point is that this didn't have to happen. Metro should take a hard look at their employees, and get rid of the ones who are simple, incompetent and unwilling to do their job the right way. I'd rather see my taxes go to more welfare and job placement for the underprivileged and undereducated than for these people to threaten everyone with their negligent operation of a bus.

Posted by: YourStrawberry23 | December 11, 2007 3:09 PM

If nothing else, one thing these comment boards are good for, is that it shows how many racists, and how many loonies are out there. Fred seems quite angry that this man is going to spend one year in jail, although the result of his negligence cut two lives short and I'm sure left families in tatters. We're vindictive and we all deserve to burn in hell, because we don't believe the penalty is harsh enough? Hmmm. I'm confused. According to Fred, penalty for disagreeing with him should be to burn in a lake of fire and brimstone for eternity, but, taking two lives should result in what, a good talking to? Fred, do you have health insurance? Can you possibly get some psychologogical assistance? I believe you need it.

Posted by: Dad | December 11, 2007 3:11 PM

Negligent driving is a problem everywhere. Seems to be especially bad in East Coast cities. Everyone in a hurry to get somewhere. Is it really worth it?

Posted by: ducky | December 11, 2007 3:21 PM

First of all I fully agree that pedestrians and cyclists should obey the rules of the road. However, a bicycle or a pedestrian is not going to kill somebody. When you are operating a motor vehicle you need to be aware that it has DEADLY potential. It is not about who is right or what you are legally "entitled" to do, it is about understanding that your carelessness could cost someone's life, and citing all the traffic laws in the world will not bring them back. I think we all get so caught up in the frustration of the daily commute that we lose track of how dangerous a car or bus really is. This should be a sobering wakeup call to all of us on the roads.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 11, 2007 3:24 PM

I was hit once by a commuter cutting through Capitol Hill-- he turned left from a one-way street while READING THE PAPER and never looked up to see me. He barely opened his door to look at me, asked belligerently "Are you ok?", immediately yelled accusingly that "I didn't see you!" and drove off. True story. Unembellished. I was, in fact, fine, except for being shaken up, but it is indicative of how aggressive people get in traffic.

I used to walk a mile each way to work in Old Town Alexandria, and the cars trying to get to the beltway exit every evening would drive my blood pressure through the roof. They would crowd into the intersection long past the red light, to the point where it was literally impossible to cross with the walk light. I used to threaten to wear a sandwich board that said "either make room for pedestrians or we'll start driving to work, too."

Bottom line: you can easily kill someone if you do not make a safe place for pedestrians and bikes on the road.

Posted by: JB | December 11, 2007 3:24 PM

Although I agree that the bus driver was clearly at fault, one thing that I don't think people realize is that this video is running at 2x normal speed. It's very common for security video to be recorded at 15 frames per second so when it is played back at a normal tv speed of 30 frames per second everything looks speeded up. Even so the driver deserves the jail time he got.

Posted by: Peterp22 | December 11, 2007 3:30 PM

OK, so the next time I write a pedestrian a ticket for "jaywalking" -- and its one of you -- you're going to thank me for helping to save pedestrian lives, right? Sure! Of the many times I have, not once has anyone been so forward-thinking as to understand that I'm doing it for precisely the reason evident in the video.

I don't have any doubts that the Metrobus driver was in the wrong, but pedestrians willfully and flagrantly violate the rules of the road every day in DC. They contribute to the shockingly high pedestrian fatality rate. By the way, I'll ticket a Metrobus driver, just like any other driver. Unfortunately, the passengers on the bus are rarely sympathetic about the amount of time it adds to their commute!

Before slamming the DC Police for not preventing these and other deaths, let's all take a big breath and ask ourselves what we ALL can be doing to prevent them.

Posted by: DCCop | December 11, 2007 3:37 PM

it has been stated by some posters that the bus driver (or others who run down pedestrians, broadside other vehicles, etc.) didn't intend to hurt anyone, but saying you didn't mean to do it isn't very convincing if you drive as if you're the only one on the road. as we were all lectured as young kids, actions speak louder than words.

Posted by: eo mcmars | December 11, 2007 3:45 PM

Hey DCCop -- have you ever ticketed a driver for failing to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk?

Posted by: Pedestrian | December 11, 2007 4:21 PM

People are aggressive everywhere in this city, not just on the roads (but more so there). It is a me first kind of place. Two, for the 9-year-DC-liver, then you should know that all government employees protect other government employees. It just is.

I feel sorry for the person hit in Capitol Hill. That was disgusting.

With all the Metrobus deaths, I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, and not rush to catch a bus. Of course, if the buses ran anywhere near on time, none of us would have to rush. But, whatever, I take responsibility for myself, and force myself not to rush. This is triply true when I get behind the wheel of the car. It is a constant self-refrain.

What I am about to say will possibly raise some eyebrows. I have lived here 20 plus years. I have noticed a most definite shift in bus driving styles. Up until about three or four years ago, I was driven crazy by how SLOW the buses would go. It would really drive me to distraction. Then things changed. A real shift. While I always pushed for a more assertive driving style, I wanted them to do it in a safe manner. I thought that it was possible to do both. I still do. But now it seems that while the drivers have picked up the pace, they have done so in a sloppy, reckless manner.

There is assertive and then there is careless or negligent. It is possible to drive assertively, quickly, without endangering others. It really is.

I think that Metrobus really benefits by having a core of veteran drivers. The new drivers do not like the buses, and want to go to rail. Metro needs to up the prestige factor in bus driving so that every 5-10 years it will have a new crop of very mature, capable drivers. More care, thought, and planning.

Posted by: blue screen | December 11, 2007 4:59 PM

OK, so the next time I write a pedestrian a ticket for "jaywalking" -- and its one of you -- you're going to thank me for helping to save pedestrian lives, right?

If I thought for a nanosecond that you were giving out a proportionate number of tickets to drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians? Absolutely.

Posted by: Don | December 11, 2007 5:03 PM

This is horrible and clearly the Metro driver is at fault for excessive speed and inattention. However, I work at a building on that intersection and can say that the city did an absolutely horrible job of treating the road and sidewalks in that area on that day. This was Fenty's first snowstorm as mayor and he clearly failed to do the job and because of that these two women paid the ultimate commuter tax. Fenty should do at least a weekend at the DC Jail for this.
Also, as others have commented the incompetence and laziness of the MPD only contributed to the deadly situation. The MPD is only good for showing up in excess after something has already happened and then crashing into each other. The majority of MPD officers are overpaid and incompetent at general police work which, yes includes traffic enforcement and direction. You can include in that the officer in cruiser SOD 4370 who was sitting in the dark on 16th St NW last evening doing absolutely nothing except talking on his cell phone and letting offenders speed by, drive on without working headlights, not stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, etc. You could add millions per month to the MPD budget or cut it by the same amount and there would be no net improvement or deterioration in public safety. You need to change the mindset, clean house, and get another new chief from outside the local system.

Posted by: DC taxpayer, Anti-Fenty | December 11, 2007 5:17 PM

This was horrible but unfortunately not surprising, given how people drive around here. All the signs and education in the world will not change the culture of DC that says "me first, screw the rest of you." As a pedestrian, I have had drivers honk at me for being in a crosswalk with a walk sign because it caused them to have to wait 3 seconds. I grew up in the CA Bay Area where traffic is worse - but people actually stop and wave pedestrians across (they also let you in if you signal a lane change on the freeway). People are more relaxed there and they know that a human life is more important than being 3 seconds late. As long as DC people remain the nasty, rude, angry people that they are, nothing here will ever change and we'll continue to see more pedestrian deaths and people who justify it by saying "130 pound humans are the ones who are supposed to watch out for 4000 pound vehicles."

Posted by: DC Drivers | December 11, 2007 6:11 PM

It's time to get serious about pedestrian safety in this city. We need to be doing everything to make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists to get around. Given the crisis we are facing with pollution, obesity, and traffic, cars should have the strictest compliance and the withstand the toughest laws. This video is horrific, but it's something that has nearly happened to me so many times as a pedestrian. WMATA drivers and even regular drivers have absolutely ZERO tolerance for the law in DC. The MPD needs to step up traffic enforfcement so that no one dares violate traffic laws. DC, MD and VA need to toughen the issuance of drivers licenses; we hand out licenses like candy and it needs to stop because driving is not a right. Finally, if someone gets a couple of speeding tickets or is involved in a couple of accidents, he/she needs to lose their license for a year or two - automatically. And maybe all these disgustingly fat people will lose some weight when they have to walk more each day!

Posted by: AR | December 11, 2007 6:21 PM

And Michael Vick gets 24 months for some mutts?

Posted by: HankTheCat | December 11, 2007 11:15 PM

The following information regarding pedestrian right-of-way at crosswalks is
thanks to a post on the Cleveland Park Listserv.
********************************************

DC Code 50-2208.21, Right-of-Way at Crosswalks, reads:

"(a) When official traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop and give the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

(b) A pedestrian who has begun crossing on the "WALK" signal shall be given the right-of-way by the driver of any vehicle to continue to the opposite sidewalk or safety island, whichever is nearest.

(c) Any person convicted of failure to stop and give the right-of-way to a pedestrian or of colliding with a pedestrian shall be subject to a fine of not more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both. Any
person convicted of a violation of this section may be sentenced to perform
community service as an alternative to, but not in addition to, any term of
imprisonment authorized by this section."

[There are additional subsections to this section, but they're not relevant
here.]

Last Spring, a FOIA filed with MPD asked how many motorists had been cited under 50-2208.21. This is what they said in response:

Total number of citations written in 2005: 1
Total number of citations written in 2006: 3
The number of citations written as of May 7, 2007: 13

Neither MPD nor Superior Court (where the cases go for hearing, if one is requested) keeps records of how many times drivers have been jailed, fined the maximum, or required to perform community service.

MPD was also asked, "Under what circumstances will a police officer arrest a driver for violating DC Code 50-2201.28 or other laws protecting pedestrians?"

The answer to that question was "Officers will not arrest an individual unless the officer has other mitigating circumstances for an arrest (i.e. No Permit) because the new operational procedures require the officer to write a 61-D."

A copy of "Standard Operating Procedures PD Form 61D (violation citation)" -- the form and SOP allow a police officer to issue a citation, rather than arresting the person, for certain misdemeanor offenses. Failing to give the right of way, and "colliding" with a pedestrian, are two of the offenses listed. For failing to give the right of way, $50 is the prescribed fine (or "collateral" in the parlance of the SOP) under the SOP (i.e. 10% of the statutory maximum); for colliding with a pedestrian, the prescribed fine is $100 (i.e. 20% of the statutory maximum) -- the violator has the choice under the SOP of either forfeiting that amount or requesting an arraignment date to contest the charge. So, a driver can hit you and then drive away after agreeing to pay the $100; if they miss you, and agree to forfeit the collateral, they pay $50. To put these amounts in perspective, DC Code 50-2303.7 requires pedestrians stopped for a traffic offense to provide name and address to the police officer and one can be fined $10-$50 for refusing to provide the information. Under the SOP, a 61D can be issued for that violation and the prescribed collateral is $50 -- i.e. 100% of the statutory maximum. So, drivers who break the law and actually HURT someone get to drive away if they agree to pay 20% of the statutory maximum, and a pedestrian who fails to provide name and address gets hit with the full 100%.

According to the SOP, the collateral amounts are not set by MPD; they are set by the DC Superior Court Board of Judges.

MPD could hand out $50 tickets all day long, every day of the year, and the drivers who ignore the law wouldn't be deterred, and that's likely why nothing changes despite the repeated educational efforts, "Street Smart" campaigns, etc.

So, next time you are called for jury duty, and you are asked the question, "Have you ever been a victim of a crime?" (a routine question in most criminal trials), you might cheerfully let the judge and US attorney in the case know exactly how many times you have been the victim of a violation of DC Code 50-2201.28, and that you don't believe the DC government, including the Superior Court Board of Judges, takes this crime as seriously as it should.

Maybe they'll start to get the message that $50-$100 fines are not appropriate punishment for the routine crimes committed by drivers.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2007 12:32 AM

Yes, in fact, I do enforce the law against motorists who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians. You can catch me often at the crosswalk in front of the Safeway on MacArthur Blvd. during the PM rush hour.

As to the person who thinks that the majority of DC police officers are overpaid and incompetent, I would defy him/her to come out on these streets and do what the average police officer does for the pay they do. I'm not saying that there aren't some lazy, overpaid, or incompetent cops out there, but your blanket characterization is not only wrong -- it's offensive. Painting whole classes of people with simple and perjorative descriptors is prejudicial. You can't say that honestly because you don't know what the majority of DC police officers do on a day-to-day basis. It's about as dumb as saying that the majority of lawyers are crooks, or the majority of baseball players use steroids.

Posted by: DCCop | December 12, 2007 12:43 AM

A word of advice: If you are involved in an accident with a Metro bus -- don't move until you get a police report. I was sideswiped from the REAR by a Metro bus at 6th and Pennsylvania SE, taking off my rearview mirror. I insisted on getting a police report. The police officer muttered "I don't get paid enough for this." There was NO damage to the bus (I took pictures). A couple of weeks later, I received a demand letter from Metro saying I was responsible for the accident, and that I had to pay for damages to the bus (?!). I retrieved a copy of the report from the police station, which said we had "inadvertently drifted into each other," and that there was no damage to the bus. My insurance company sent a copy of that report to Metro, and I heard nothing further. Of course, I was left with the aftermath of having had to inform my insurance company.

Posted by: Capitol Hill Resident | December 12, 2007 3:31 AM

and they gave Michael Vick 23 months for a couple of dogs. the value of life.

Posted by: lawrence | December 12, 2007 6:59 AM

DCCop wrote: "Yes, in fact, I do enforce the law against motorists who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians. You can catch me often at the crosswalk in front of the Safeway on MacArthur Blvd. during the PM rush hour."

So of the 17 crosswalk violation tickets that the 3500-member MPD has written in the past 3 years, how many are yours? Considering that the entire department averages less than one ticket every two months, I have to wonder what your definition of "often" is.

I am "often" -- by which I mean daily -- a pedestrian on MacArthur and it is very rare for drivers to stop at the unsignalized crosswalks. I have never seen anyone ticketed for a crosswalk violation. I've seen drivers blow the crosswalk at MacArthur and Dana while there is a 3D officer on crossing guard duty, with no consequence.

Posted by: Pedestrian | December 12, 2007 9:29 AM

A few months ago I was nearly hit while crossing Columbia Road at 18th St(with the walk signal).

With the weather being pleasant enough that both the car's front windows were open, I shouted the "a" word expletive -- unoriginal, I know, but sometimes only one word will do for a fast-moving vehicle.

His angry response: "right turn on red." Of course there wasn't time to remind him that the law permits that turn (a) only if there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk, and (b) in all cases, only after stopping.

I don't think his attitude is unique. If we're serious about pedestrian safety, rethinking RTOR may be a place to start -- especially including Metrobuses (rather than trying to enforce that ridiculous and unenforceable new rule about not making a right turn in front of a stopped Metrobus).

Posted by: Meridian | December 12, 2007 9:35 AM

I did not think a right turn on red was allowed at 18th and columbia.

Posted by: Blue | December 12, 2007 10:40 AM

Come on people, get a grip. Witnessing the video seems to have convinced a lot of people that Mr. Kolako is some kind of sadistic monster, rather than a man who made a very bad decision. It seems that a lot of the posters here imagine him laughing maniacally as he hits those poor women. He could not stop immediately because busses do not stop on a dime, not because he is especially cruel.

As for all these calls for higher jail time, does any one out there realize that we have the highest incarceration of any nation in the civilized world (unless you want to include Russia)? Can we not control ourselves? Why is it every time something bad happens someone pops up tell us that someone else needs to go to jail so that the bad thing doesn't happen again? How many people need to be in jail for us to feel safe? If we don't watch out, before you know it we are going to be throwing people in jail and throwing away the key for possessing miniscule amounts of crack cocaine. Oh yeah...

If posting this video has somehow helped the victim's family deal with their turmoil, so be it. But I don't see how inciting the type of rage that is evident in these posts serves a healthy social function.

Posted by: Paul | December 12, 2007 10:56 AM

I don't know about the statistics that were cited in reference to the number of crosswalk violations that were given out, but I can assure you that it is far off the mark. I can remember on night a few months ago when I and three other officers wrote that many tickets at Wisconsin and M Streets, NW in a matter of an hour! It was shortly after a pedestrian had been killed, and we were trying to make an educational point with the people who seem to think that one can cross anywhere -- midblock or in a crosswalk against a light. They were pretty unhappy -- lots of "Don't you have anything better to do with your time?" or "Don't you have REAL criminals to catch?"

And by the way, if you see a cop who you don't think is doing his or her job (i.e., sitting idle as school kids almost get creamed by cars on MacArthur and Dana), then take a few moments to note the date, time, number of the car or badge number of the cop, and tell someone. I'm not going to say that we're perfect, we're not. There are some officers who don't do what they're supposed to do, but if you don't take the time to let the MPD leadership know when certain officers are not living up to expectations, then the problem is as much your fault as it is ours because the supervisors can't fix a problem they don't know about and they can't be everywhere looking over the shoulder of every police officer.

Posted by: DCCop | December 12, 2007 2:28 PM

DCCop--how come your colleague has not been punished for killing a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk on Wisconsin Ave NW? Is that the night you were ticketing--AFTER the MPD officer failed to stop (as required to) for the pedestrian?

Posted by: DCped | December 12, 2007 3:29 PM

DCCop -- The statistics were about the number of MOTORISTS who have been ticketed for crosswalk violations, not pedestrians.

Your confusion seems to prove my point. Believe it or not, motorist ALSO have a responsibility at crosswalks, it's not just pedestrians who can be at fault. In fact, under DC law motorists have an absolute obligation to "stop and give right of way to pedestrians" at crosswalks. No exceptions, no excuses. I'm not surprised that you don't know this, because the MPD has apparently adopted a policy of not enforcing this law.

I'm glad that you are keen to "educate" pedestrians by ticketing them. Any chance you might "educate" motorists by ticketing them too? Or are motorists beyond "education"?

Don hit it right on the head when he wrote "If I thought for a nanosecond that you were giving out a proportionate number of tickets to drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians? Absolutely."

If you're giving out more tickets in a single shift to pedestrians than the ENTIRE DEPARTMENT has given to motorists in THREE YEARS I would say we have evidence that the ticketing is disproportionate.

Posted by: Pedestrian | December 13, 2007 11:12 AM

OK. I apologize for having misread the statistics post. The fact is that I do enforce the requirement for motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks (which I know quite well and don't need a primer on). As I said in my first post, you can see me at the crosswalk at MacArthur in front of the Safeway (it's one of the ones the community has asked that we address).

Enforcing against motorists who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians is more difficult than you would think. To actually write the ticket, you have to see the motorist go through the crosswalk when the pedestrian has made his/her intention clear to cross the street (which not all of them do ... some stand in the cross walk waiting for a break in traffic, some stand on the sidewalk). If I am monitoring the crosswalk then allowing a car to go through while a person is in the crosswalk places that person at risk, so my tack has always been to go out into the crosswalk to ensure the safety of the pedestrian and then stop the vehicle that appeared not to be stopping. Unfortunately, this means that I can't write a Notice of Infraction for failing to yield to a pedestrian because the motorist didn't actually go through the crosswalk. What I can do (and what I do do) is speak to the motorist about the law and the need to be more observant to pedestrians. I know it seems silly that I can't write the motorist a ticket, but there's no violation for "nearly failed to yield."

As to the other person who asked why my colleague has not been punished for hitting the pedestrian, I don't remember exactly when the tragedy occurred, but the officer involved is entitled to due process (just as you would be if you were the motorist). This takes time and isn't over (as far as I know). My guess is that if the officer is found to be responsible that he WILL be appropriately disciplined. Discipline within the department can take several forms, up to and including termination. The officer is also subject to the criminal and civil judicial processes.

Let me close by saying this. If you want more pedestrian enforcement (of both motorists and pedestrians) then you should make your views known to the police chief, the mayor, and the city council. The department, like any function of government, responds to political pressure.

Finally, you should know that a lot of us take the matter pretty seriously and personally. My friend and colleague, Joe Pozell, a volunteer police officer, was killed as he was directing traffic at Wisconsin and M. Don't think for a minute that we don't care. We do.

Posted by: DCCop | December 13, 2007 1:04 PM

I cannot click on that link, my imagination is enough for me.

However, I just wanted to say that I live in an area that has a steady flow of metrobuses coming in an out of the apartment complex. This is a parking lot they are driving through and their speeds regularly are too high. I have nearly been hit more than once both walking and attempting to pull out of a parking space in my car. Most times they will actually speed up to "try and beat me."

Also- walking home from work, I cross a street at an intersection where cars regularly speed through around me while I am crossing in a crosswalk with the pedestrian signal. Their getting home 5 seconds earlier is clearly more important to them then my life, which I greatly appreciate.

Something really does need to be done about this.

Posted by: K | December 13, 2007 2:09 PM

Metro bus drivers routinely run red lights. I see it all the time near my work at 18th and I. Nothing is done. In fact, I think Metro encourages bad driving by holding the drivers to strict schedules. The blood of those two women killed is on the Metro powers-that-be.

Posted by: DFL | December 13, 2007 4:08 PM

Living and working in the city, I see that both drivers an pedestrians are at fault. You have drivers paying attention to the time left on walk signals (to see if they can "make it" through) and pedestrians who walk when the signal clearly says DO NOT WALK. In addition, the city needs to take a hard, cold look at the timing they give at intersections. I'm young and I can walk fast. However, there are older people (esp in my neighborhood) who can't.

I've always thought that drivers have no business driving the speeds that they do on DC roads - it's a city for goodness sake and unless you are on Rock Creek Pkway, you really should not be going so fast. Add to that the fact that I very rarely see cops positioned to crack down on speeders/offenders.

As far as the metro driver goes, he was clearly clueless and although I am sure he did not do this intentionally, he was not a vigilent driver. He's driving a huge machine, why is he rushing to make a left turn (almost hitting oncoming traffic) and why is he not paying attention to what is in front of him? Even if he had been, it looks like he was speeding to make the light...so who knows it he could've stopped if he did see the women.

As a DC resident, all of this comes as no surprise. I've sent in anonymous complaints numerous times about callous, unsafe metro drivers and all residents/workers should do the same anytime you witness such a disregard for safety. In fact, cc: the mayor's office!

I feel really awful for the victims' families. I hope WMATA has to dish out tons of cash to these folks - no consolation of course for the lives lost, but at least a strong message sent to the incompetent WMATA leaders and drivers, who seem to be pre-occupied with raising rates than basic, decent safety.

Posted by: greenacre4 | December 13, 2007 6:46 PM

I finally watched the video tonight, since it's not safe for work, and I'm glad I did, because it made me stop and think about my actions while driving.

A few minutes after watching the video, I went out to pick up Thai takeout. On the way home I was waiting to make a left turn, the light was getting ready to turn red, and traffic was approaching from the opposite direction. Before I spun the wheel to the left and mashed the accelerator, I took a second look, and sure enough, there in the crosswalk was a pedestrian, wearing dark-colored clothing. When I got home I made my 17-year-old son watch the video, not because I think he's a reckless driver but because the video made me stop and think, and I hoped that it would make him stop and think.

As far as the bus driver, a year in jail is nowhere near enough. I imagine that the victim's relatives are going to hit the city with a huge wrongful death suit, and I hope they do. The driver should have been treated as if he committed a double murder.

As for all the yapping by various posters about how the city doesn't clear ice and snow from the streets, I really didn't see anything in that video that indicates that the street was icy or snow-covered. If it had been, the bus would never have been able to make the turn at such a speed; frankly, I'm surprised it made the turn at all. And oh by the way, the video looks like it's playing back at normal speed -- look at the pedestrians; they aren't moving herky-jerky as they would if it were speeded up.

Finally, if there were a way to report inappropriate posts on this forum, I would report the post in all caps at 4:48 pm today (12/13).

Posted by: ajsmithva | December 13, 2007 8:53 PM

Reconsideration of my earlier comment -- after viewing the video again and watching the flash frequency of turn signals, police lights, and the "walk/don't walk" signals, I think maybe the video is faster than normal speed. But I can't tell how much faster (2:1, 1.5:1, etc.).

Posted by: ajsmithva | December 13, 2007 9:00 PM

How many other innocent people must die before WMATA gets their act together? I hope the families prevail in their suits against WMATA. Metro and its Union are a bunch of corrupt, incompetent, goons who should be in JAIL where they belong. They have the blood of Sally and Martha on their hands!

We demand accountability from the goons at WMATA!

Posted by: Kitty-Kat | December 16, 2007 11:59 AM

Free Victor Kolako!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 16, 2007 8:41 PM

WMATA is operated by a bunch of crooks and thugs. I'm surprised this tragedy didn't happen sooner.

Take 'em on, Survivors! Let's clean up this mess called Wham-a-ta and its Union of the 'Hood.

Peace-out.

Posted by: Hiz Honor Marion Berry | December 18, 2007 9:34 AM

I bet if this was a driver of caucasion ethnicity your responses wouldn't be so harsh or judgemental. I black man did it,open season on the black man. It was an accident and what he did was beyond ignorant, but it was an accident. You can look at the sports world with the steroid craze going on and see the white mans blatant bigotry and racism on full display.If Kolako was a white man your remorse would be overflowing. Black people stand up!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Judgemental white people | December 19, 2007 10:13 PM

Yo, "Judgemental white people"-

It ain't about the color of his skin, Bro. It's about a corrupt union and dysfunctional organization--WMATA--that needs to be changed from the inside.

So quit playing the race card and let's work to make our public transportation safe!

Posted by: D.C. Dwayne | December 21, 2007 6:49 AM

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