Having finished my first round of research of Albuquerque Police Department reports on 2017-2018 walking fatalities, I can report that many of the lives ended by these incidents were anything but smooth and often troubled. As noted sometime back, it makes sense given that we have made walking our roadways so unsafe that only those forced by circumstances and bad choices are attempting it.
This is only a generalization, however. And, as is true with almost all generalizations, they tend to be convenient simplifications that make uninformed lives more pleasant. Walking deaths are filled with such generalizations, e.g., “pedestrian error.” Generally true, with significant and sometimes huge exceptions that are overwhelmingly ignored.
An example of an exception is what happened at the intersection of Menaul and University NE on May 25, 2018. I’ve been agonizing a bit on whether to fully personalize this case, trying to consider the feelings and certain trauma experienced by those close to the deceased. In addition to the pointed goal of why we at BB are looking into these cases, changing public policy to make walking here safer, there must be consideration of what point is made by putting names along with histories here. And we are talking “the Internet” here and the seemingly eternal e-legacies left by typing a name on pages like this.
I know I’d prefer my name not be “Googled” (or whatever eventually replaces Google) in 2035 and lead to someone time-sinking into hours about the time I was killed at the corner of Menaul and University NE. Maybe that’s just me.
But I digress.
Leaving names and specifics aside, I will only pass along that the person killed walking (running actually) across Menaul Boulevard on May 25, 2018 was a pretty amazing person. Some Googling revealed that the gentleman co-ran a community garden (not in New Mexico) for years, was a mainstay in that cottage industry, and also had a full life as a practicing attorney somewhere further East. While many deceased ABQ walkers over 2017-2018 do have some sort of short online “eulogy” via Legacy.com, other obituary site, Facebook memorial, or GoFundMe page to pay final expenses, this gentleman’s online memorial presence is the kind one dreams about, when one selfishly dreams of how extensive they wish their online memorial presence will, or could, be.
In fact, this gentleman had the kind of life that would have made his “pedestrian error” death a story here in Burque, had he been a local. And in that story there would have perhaps been a tiny bit of digging into the circumstances that led to the gentleman’s death.
Perusing the APD report on the incident, one just about notices nothing outside what seem to be the unassailable facts: a 77-year-old gentleman ran (bully for him for being able to run at age 77) south across Menaul Blvd. and was struck in the very last of the seven lanes before making it to the southside sidewalk:
A.O.I. stands for “Area of Impact” and, yes, the gentleman was struck in the crosswalk on the westside of the intersection and ended up just past the crosswalk on the eastside. Speed kills. A witness account, as well as statement by the driver, say that the deceased was crossing against the light, hence the finding of “pedestrian error” by the investigating officer.
Why was the gentleman crossing against the light? We’ll never know. He almost made it to safety, but a driver in that last, most southerly lane hit him.
For those who haven’t had much experience looking through police crash reports, there’s a Uniform Crash Report with names and scant detail including finding of “primary contributing factor” (e.g., “Pedestrian Error”), a narrative by the investigating officer, a drawing or two such as that above, sometimes a lengthy speed data analysis made possible by technology stored on newer vehicles (such was not included in this case), a short report by an officer who photographed and catalogs evidence, and, at the end, some “supplemental narratives” provided by other APD officers who are assigned to block traffic and generally make investigation possible.
In the case of May 25, 2018, one of these supplemental narratives includes a retelling of events by the single recorded witness to the event, a retelling that includes a small detail found nowhere else in the crash report, investigating narrative included. Here it is:
So the driver who struck the 77-year-old sped up to “make” the light, passing a driver who was rightly slowing down at the yellow. There’s no record of the vehicle driven by the witnessing driver, but it’s interesting to consider how much more difficult it would have been for the deceased to see that driver zooming around to “make” the light.
The investigation narrative does include a statement by the witnessing driver, including a quote that the driver who struck the 77-year-old “would have made the yellow,” but there’s no elaboration on how speeding up to “make” the light played any role in the death.
Because the 77-year-old was going against the light. End of story.
To close, there’s actually a few other small details not included anywhere in police reports on the incident and aftermath. The driver trying to “make” the light struck the deceased on May 26th. The very day before, on May 25, 2018, this driver was caught speeding “16-20 mph over the limit” on Coors Boulevard, as well as having:
- No proof of insurance;
- No vehicle registration; and,
- A suspended driver’s license.
Notably, there’s no record, anywhere, in the walking death police investigation of a check for insurance, registration, or a suspended license. Similarly, there’s no mention in the report of several prior offenses committed by the driver over the years involving really bad driving and angry living.
Because it was “pedestrian error.” So none of that evidently matters.
On the contrary, the lives of all who are killed on our roadways matter, no more so than the 77-year-old gentleman who had a full, productive life before trying to walk/run across Menaul Blvd. at University on last May 26th. You just wouldn’t know it from a simple, generalized “pedestrian error.”