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Hume-Fogg Student's Death was Preventable

Hume-Fogg Student's Death was Preventable
Sunday, December 22, 2013

By Adams Carroll in the Tennessee Opinion Section. Read more here..

On Dec. 19, Hume-Fogg High School junior Elena Zamora had just finished a day of final exams at one of the country's most celebrated public high schools.

The intelligent, athletic 17-year-old woman was crossing the street downtown in one of Nashville’s most congested pedestrian areas when she was fatally struck by a person driving a tractor-trailer.

Elena’s tragedy is heartbreaking. In a matter of seconds, a young woman’s life was cut short — untold happy years of promise and potential were stolen from Ms. Zamora and those who survive her.

The Nashville community should take this moment to wrap their arms around Elena’s family and friends. We will support you, and we share your grief.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Ms. Zamora’s death, like most vehicle-on-pedestrian injuries and fatalities, was preventable. Ms. Zamora was exercising her legal right of way as she crossed Rosa Parks Boulevard in a crosswalk during the middle of a clear, sunny day.

As motorists, we must accept our legal and moral duty to cede right of way to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. About this issue State Law is unequivocal.

Failure to yield to a pedestrian within a marked crosswalk is a violation of Tennessee state law.

Even when motorists turn with a green light, pedestrians crossing with the light have the right of way.

If no marked crosswalk exists, pedestrians passing through uncontrolled intersections still have the right of way.Whenever we get behind the wheel, we must acknowledge that our cars are potentially dangerous weapons. A text message; drowsiness; alcohol; simple carelessness; any of these factors can be the cause of untold grief for the loved ones of traffic victims and for the driver himself, who must forever live with the heavy awareness of having taken a life.

As more and more Nashvillians choose to be active, walking and biking for recreation and transportation, we must embrace these changing traffic patterns and adjust our road behavior accordingly.

Recent efforts, including the hiring of a citywide bicycle and pedestrian coordinator as well as a grant to bring Safe Routes to School programming back to Metro Public Schools, will help drive this change.

More can be done.

We call upon our local police force to ensure that traffic laws are being enforced to protect us when on foot and hold ourselves accountable whenever we exercise the privilege of operating a motor vehicle.

We call upon our public engineers and health department officials to look closely at built environment factors that contribute to pedestrian injury and death. We hope that an extensive Pedestrian Safety Study currently being undertaken by Public Works and the Department of Public Health will produce tangible results.

We call upon our council members and Mayor to increase investment in complete streets infrastructure that protects all road users, especially those who are most vulnerable. Much work remains to be done to implement our ten-year-old Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways. The time is now to aggressively implement this plan, which would improve road safety for all Nashvillians.

We furthermore urge the council to adopt a “Vulnerable Road User” law into the Metro Code that recognizes the vulnerable nature of pedestrians and cyclists and adjust penalties for traffic violations that harm them accordingly.

Finally, we call upon ourselves, our fellow citizens, and visitors to our great to city to exercise caution and humanity upon the streets, regardless of our mode of transportation. State and local law provides legal guidance on this matter. Basic morality shows that safe, courteous use of the road is simply the right thing to do.

Within each of us lies the ability to prevent the senseless carnage of the street.

Elena Zamora, rest in peace.

Adams Carroll is program manager of Walk/Bike Nashville.