“I Almost Killed Someone Today”

On Friday, very alert — thankfully — “06880” reader Chip Stephens wrote:

I almost killed someone today.

I was heading into Parker Harding Plaza from the Post Road. It was a typical Westport morning there: cars running red lights to make it through to save a few seconds, others blocking the intersection so no one could move.

I was in no rush. I’ve been numbed to the idiocy of drivers to get nowhere fast.

Westport has plenty of congested corners. This (with a photo showing a parked car in a no-parking zone) is one of the worst.

Westport has plenty of congested corners. This (with a photo showing a parked car in a no-parking zone) is one of the worst.

As I turned to enter the lot for my morning Starbucks fix, I luckily observed a middle-aged man stopped at the corner, waiting to cross the street toward the bridge.

He had stopped to adjust his earbuds or read his latest text. You know where this is going.

As the car behind me with orange plates blasted his horn so I would rush forward — the light had turned green an instant earlier — I started into the lot. That’s when the iPhoneiac walked right in front of me, oblivious to the world around him.

I jammed on my brakes. The guy from New York behind me jammed on his brakes (and hit his horn). The iPhone man did not flinch. Instead he flipped the bird to us all.

I almost killed him. It was that close.

Pay attention, dude!

Pay attention, dude!

Jackson Browne sang it so well: “They say the end is a blink of an eye.” Would his family miss him tomorrow? Would his wife ask why him, why her? Would his friends question fate or karma?  Would the police blame me?

Would the world have changed for many who knew this man who lost his life because of his cyber bad habit of turning off the realities of the world around him, not knowing or caring if God or fate would protect him?

I know I thought all those things in those brief moments after I almost killed him with my SUV this morning.

I thank God he spared all involved. I promised myself I would tell the story in the hopes maybe one person would get it.

So: Unplug. Pay attention. Your ignorance will not only involve checking out of 06880. You will affect many other lives in a bad way. And the resulting mess will really piss off lots of bad drivers.

Thank God I did not kill someone today.

35 responses to ““I Almost Killed Someone Today”

  1. Molly Alger

    It goes both ways. I walk somewhere in town almost every day and must constantly be alert for drivers who never imagine there might be a pedestrian. Like someone coming out making a right turn onto the Post Road and only looking at the traffic coming from his or her left. Never thinking there might be someone on the sidewalk coming from the right. Just eager to make their turn and get going. And of course they are often texting or talking on their handheld cell phone while they wait to make that precious turn. Be vigilant walkers!

  2. Dana McCreesh

    Agree. Also applies to drivers at traffic lights.

  3. Mark Yurkiw

    How lucky are we to have someone so thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic and…. sane chairing our P&Z. I didn’t know I’d enjoy reading Mr. Stephens as much as I enjoy hearing him speak for our town. Thank you, and I hope the promise of driver-less cars come sooner and makes our lives both safer and saner asap.

  4. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Ah Westport!!! Such a bucolic, unspoiled little town!!!

  5. Jennie Pickering

    It seems like you wished you killed him. I won’t tell

  6. Very good Dan. Nicholas Clarke

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  7. Elaine Nord

    Drivers and pedestrians need to be mindful of each other. One of the most dangerous is the walker/runner who has his/her back to traffic. They may not hear or sense traffic behind them and the driver approaching can’t tell if they will walk further into the road. CT statute 14-300c states that “if such roadway carries motor vehicle traffic traveling in opposite directions each pedestrian walking along and upon such roadway shall walk only upon the left side of such roadway.” Pedestrians will see the traffic approaching and can stay clear.

  8. Morley Boyd

    Well said, Chip. And thank heavens nothing happened. Not long ago I had a somewhat related encounter with a driver (who just happened to have an orange plate – not that I noticed). To set the table, we were at the intersection of South Compo and the Post Road. He was traveling East on the latter- thru a red light, it seems. I was taking a left on the Post Road from South Compo. My light was very green. After nearly hitting me with his orange plate – and the Jaguar which was affixed to it – he rolled down the window and gave me the very same hand signal that you received on Friday. As I drove away, shaking from the vision of what could have been my last moments, I also saw, in my mind’s eye, Orangie’s cake hole angrily forming a certain two word advisory. Good times.

  9. Peter Blau

    This isn’t meant to excuse the guy with the earbuds, but the driver making a turn has to yield to a pedestrian crossing the street. Usually, the pedestrian has a green light same time as the driver making a turn.

    In other words, the writer would have been charged, had he struck the pedestrian.

    I’m surprised that no other commenter mentionred this.

  10. Wendy Cusick

    Finally someone has spoken up! Thank you Mr. Stephens.
    You have no idea how many people step off the curb/driveway and walk right out in front of drivers between parked cars and never look both ways for traffic coming (Riverside Ave/Bridge Street). And if you’re on your devices, Please also look up and look both ways. Stepping off into moving traffic Without looking as you step into a Crosswalk in the Dark with Dark Clothing doesn’t make the cars Stop like a video game.
    Look Around Folks drivers can’t stop on a dime!
    Drivers you’re not off the hook either…Slow down, Be Patient and Stop being so Aggressive! Gunning the car around me when I’m waiting for someone in the crosswalk or backing out of parking space or just taking an extra second at the stop sign. Blasting your horn and almost ramming me Is Not going to Save you anytime time.
    You may be Right But Also Dead Right too. (Or injured)
    Oh and the Fire Department would appreciate it, if you stop blocking their driveway when waiting for the traffic light. I leave an opening and then everyone drives around me and blocks it or they just blast the horn. (They have installed a special post with a fire truck sign and flashing light. Hoping it helps)
    Runners, Cyclists and Walkers Do Not walk, run, ride 2 or 3 Abreast or More Head On with Traffic on a busy road with curves or a narrow road. Drivers can’t see you especially if you don’t wear reflective clothing. Also use the sidewalk please
    Life is Not a Video Game or like the cartoon Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote You Can’t Hit the Reset Button and Start Over! No Redos.
    The Police and Fire who read this blog will agree with me.
    There’s room for improvement for all of us.
    Let’s all try to work together

  11. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    A number of years ago a pedestrian in my town WAS killed when a truck lost its brakes and careened down one of our San Francisco-style hills. Although the driver was blasting his horn, the man with headphones didn’t hear it in time.

    • Wendy Cusick

      Wow!
      That happened in Stamford a trucker lost his brakes on High Ridge Rd. He was Blasting his horn. Everyone was almost able to get out of the way there was damage to cars and some injuries but no one killed because the trucker blasted his horn down the hill and through the intersection.

  12. Wendy Cusick

    Walking out into the middle of road like that fellow with Mr. Stpehens…and if hit..The Pedestrian will be charged/ticketed with ‘failure of right of way’ or ‘Failure of ROW’. Because they walked/ran out into moving traffic without looking around.

    The moral of the story everyone (walkers, cyclists, runners, drivers etc..) has to pay attention, be patient and stop being aggressive (with vehicles, inappropriate hand gestures and inappropriate cursing)

  13. Karen howes

    This story had to be said….this place is becoming tuned out to being in the “present moment “..I know, people say ” being on the phone, texting, tweeting is our in the moment “…LOOK UP PEOPLE ….the moment is in the eye contact conversing….the birds, the sky, the traffic around you…..westport lost a life on the road this week…we must pay attention and focus…no earbuds, looking down, texting line waiting for food….try it….instead of texting or tweeting , pause and push through the maybe uncomfortable feelings of not doing that and look around, feel the present moment ..let’s all try it this week….slow down our thoughts..look up and..smile at the person next to you in line or at a traffic light or walking the dog say hello

  14. Laura Lipton

    I am tailgated if I go remotely close to the speed limit then get honked as the person speeds past me when I make my turn, using directional signals are a thing of the past, fully stopping at stop signs are optional, and yellow/red lights mean go faster. When I walk my dog, I’ve had drivers stop and yell at me- evidently the road isn’t to be shared with pedestrians and cars….

  15. don l bergmann

    I note also that the hash mark lines for the crosswalk across the Post Rd. where the bridge begins are almost faded away. Also, the lights are timed differently, namely there is a period when the light is red heading into Town along the bridge at that intersection and the light for the opposite direction is green. In other words, to cross the Post Rd. at the beginning of the bridge you cannot simply rely on the stop light being red in the direction of downtown. It is a tricky intersection and we all need to be alert.
    Don Bergmann

  16. Sandy Soennichsen

    Peter,it doesn’t matter if the pedestrian has a green light; if he’s not in a pedestrian crosswalk, he’s in the wrong. In addition to being really stupid if he thinks he can cross anywhere and anyhow he likes.
    But the other issue is that corner at Starbucks! Why aren’t our police more vigilant in ticketing those parked illegally there, even if it’s for a week; it’ll send a message.

    • Wendy Cusick

      Thank You That’s the message I was trying to get across.

    • Sorry I don’t have this intersection committed to memory, and story doesn’t say pedestrian was disobeying a light or crossing outside crosswalk markings.

      From driver’s description, however, it sounds like the pedestrian was crossing the Parker Harding entrance road, walking west bound toward the bridge. That most definitely is a legal pedestrian crossing, regardless of condition of white stripes. So the question IS who had the green light. If both the turning driver and the pedestrian have it – the pedestrian has the right of way.

      • I think the issue here is not driver vs. pedestrian right of way, but alert/attentive behavior by drivers and pedestrians, vs. entitled/oblivious behavior by both.

        • Peter Blau

          Dan, I do think the rules of the road are pertinent here. Mr. Stephens wrote this from the POV that the pedestrian surprised him by walking across when he shouldn’t have.

          • Nancy Hunter Wilson

            The distracted pedestrian should thank his lucky stars.
            What I don’t understand is why let an impatient driver behind command your own driving?

            • Wendy Cusick

              Nancy, t totally agree
              Over the years it has gotten worse
              People don’t slow down or pay attention. They think they’re the only ones on the planet. Both Connecticut plates and Out of State plates. They come close to hitting or ramming you. It’s sad.
              Read my post above it’s everything in a nutshell.

  17. Not having been there I’m not really qualified to comment but the details outlined imply the light turned green and the walker proceeded to cross the street. That’s how it’s supposed to work and autos must yield to that pedestrian. The driver says he saw the walker adjusting his ear buds before he started walking so clearly the driver saw the walker. We all need to slow down, be courteous and respectful of others rights and desires. Walkers and bikers need not be risking their life every time they go out for healthy, fun transportation.

  18. Diane Cady

    Chip, your attention to the pedestrian is fine. Now how about attention to the seniors who were hoping for and expecting to find senior housing next to the Senior Center?

  19. Jean Coleman

    Hi,
    Pedestrians have the right of way no matter how slow they are.
    If you were stopped, he thought you were thoughtful enough to be patient.

  20. Sorry… but I will repeat the same theme as last week.. mostly I drive in Trumbull… but Fairfield is worse and the driving in my old hometown of Westport is appreciably less civilsed… regardless of the color of the tag

  21. Ray Wilhelm

    A little off point, but just a little: We’ve all been at an intersection looking for the opportunity to safely pull out into traffic when we see for the first time a pedestrian trying to cross. Of course, we yield but only if we are aware that he/she is there. When walking, I try to make eye contact with the driver, or tap lightly on the hood of the car as I cross the street. This strategy has kept me safe (and alive) for quite a while.

  22. OK local CSI members, traffic near-miss division: here is the Google Maps link to that intersection. Select StreetView (orange man) and you can see good photos.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@41.1412873,-73.3622929,3a,75y,76.74h,54.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sWFp0y3QkEd0aIev2f–Xyw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    There are marked crosswalks across 3 sides of the intersection; for some reason the Parker Harding entrance isn’t marked (probably due to a repaving after utility work). However each corner has a pedestrian button, but no separate pedestrian signal, meaning both walker and driver obey the same overhead traffic lights.

    My findings:

    1) Both driver turning into PH entry road, and pedestrian crossing it, had the light at the same time.

    2) Pedestrian had the right of way. Driver failed to wait for pedestrian to clear intersection before making turn.

    3) Contributing factors: a) pedestrian distraction due to handheld device; b) driver distraction due to aggressively-driven car behind him.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Ummm…I clicked through your link but don’t see what you see. For what it is worth, the way I view the “street view”, there are only two marked cross walks with affirmatively no marked crosswalk across the entrance to Parker Harding – note the pavement is the same there as where crossing is marked on Post Road (or, alternatively, where lane lines are painted further in on Parker Haring entrance) – and an affirmatively removed crosswalk on the bridge side of the Post Road. There do not appear to be pedestrian buttons at all corners but only near the marked crosswalk on the Post Road. In particular, there is no button on the Northwest corner (i.e. where it would be unnecessary due to lack of any crosswalk from that corner).

      Similar to the now removed Post Road crosswalk in front of Tiffany’s, I’m guessing the intent is that you aren’t supposed to cross at the entrance to Parker Harding or bridge side of Post Road which makes sense given the traffic patterns at that intersection.

      In that context,

      1) the pedestrian was illegally crossing the entrance to Parker Harding and should have been at least ticketed if not tased, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and dragged off to the lockup.

      2) given #1, driver had the right of way but showed great restraint probably recognizing there would be a lot of paperwork to fill out if he had hit the pedestrian not to mention probably a traffic citation and feelings of guilt notwithstanding the illegality for the pedestrian’s action.

      • Nancy Hunter Wilson

        1) “Ignorance is not a virtue.”
        2) Accidents do happen.