Monday, February 15, 2016

First Salem Walking Death in 2016 at Claude and 25th; Manslaughter Charged

An impaired driver struck and killed a person 68-year old Olivia M Stroup as she was crossing 25th Street in a marked crosswalk very near the main Post Office on the evening of the 13th.

Claude and 25th has an enhanced crosswalk
From the Police:
The Salem Police Department Traffic Control Unit is currently investigating a serious crash involving a pedestrian and a vehicle that occurred near the intersection of Claude St SE and 25th St SE at approximately 6:25 pm on February 13.
And in an update today:
The victim in this incident has died as a result of her injuries. However, her identity is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

The investigation has shown that the victim was crossing 25th St SE at Claude St SE at approximately 6:25 pm on February 13 when she was struck by a vehicle being driven by 32-year old Jonathan Lane Combs of Salem.

Lane was subsequently arrested on charges of Manslaughter in the second degree, Reckless Driving and Recklessly Endangering Another Person and was lodged in the Marion County Corrections Facility. He is set to appear in Court at 3:00 pm on February 16.
As you can see from the google streetview image, this intersection has an enhanced crosswalk with a median.

The prompt news that the driver was charged with Manslaughter and Reckless Driving suggests there is much more detail to come.

Update - Tuesday, the 16th

From today's Police update:
The deceased victim in this incident has been identified as 68-year old Olivia M Stroup of Salem. Her next of kin has been notified.
Update 2 - Tuesday, the 16th

From the paper's report on the initial court date, which occurred this afternoon:
[Stroup was] crossing the street in a well-lit, marked crosswalk, police said....

According to a police affidavit, Combs called in the crash and said he was the driver of the vehicle. No passengers were present.

Combs told police he saw the woman at the last minute before the crash and thought he was going 35 mph, according to the affidavit. The crash occurred in a 25-mph zone.

A police sergeant conducted a sobriety test on Combs. The sergeant reported that Combs smelled of alcohol, had watery and bloodshot eyes, spoke slowly and performed "poorly" on the test. Combs told the sergeant he drank three to four beers before driving, according to the affidavit.
If Combs admitted he thought was was going 35mph, there's a very real chance his actual rate of speed was even higher.

This post will be updated. (Additions/edits in at top in italics.)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

What do you think of the idea of putting a tree in these islands? Some people think that it actually makes it harder to see people who might be standing there waiting to cross.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, if a person is driving so fast they can't distinguish a human from a tree, then the solution is to calm traffic further, not to clear out larger sight distance triangles.

The more progressive National Association of City Transportation Officials piece on "Pedestrian Safety Islands" includes trees.

The more conservative and autoist American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says "Landscaped medians should not obstruct the visibility between pedestrians and approaching motorists and should not include objects that represent a collision hazard to vehicles that may run onto the median."

The removal of "objects that represent a collision hazard" is an expression of the doctrine of "forgiveness," that we should create conditions that "forgive" minor driver errors in braking, speeding, and turning. This same logic is applied to people on foot and on bike: We get everything out of the way in order to speed auto traffic.

So this is a debate we are in the middle of right now.

The position here is that our design speeds need to trend downwards. Clearing out the vision triangles just encourages more speeding.

So, in general trees in median refuges can be an ingredient in traffic calming. At the same time, tree placement does need to be careful, and it is possible that a particular configuration at a particular median refuge is done well or is done poorly.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re the AASHTO position of avoiding "objects that represent a collision hazard to vehicles that may run onto the median."

This is worth closer attention perhaps. Because what it means is that AASHTO's official position is that drivers should routinely be able to "run into the median" without collision!

Effectively, then, that means a median actually represents no refuge, no additional safety or barrier. It means that the road is engineered to protect people inside a car, and to protect the property value of the car itself, but is not engineered to protect other road users.

Trees as well as people on foot and on bike are "collision hazards" and need to be removed from the roadway, not accommodated in the roadway. This has been the safety philosophy of the 20th century: Clear out the roadway, make it free of collision hazards, make it so people speeding 10 or 15 mph (or more!) over the speed limit don't notice and don't crash. This benefits people in cars, but it makes it less and less easy for people to bus, walk, or bike. It prioiritizes car travel and deprecates all other forms of travel.

In a nutshell, this is 20th century hydraulic autoism.

It is one kind of safety at the great expense of other forms.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed over the years in Salem that the lane widths are often 14, 15, 16 ft. Sometimes even wider. The lanes on Fairview Industrial and Commercial St., for example, are much wider than the lanes on I-5. As you say, with the right of way commonly cleared of trees, buildings and other things, it makes driving fast seem normal. It makes driving anywhere close to the speed limit feel tediously slow. Its like driving along a rural highway, often close to the middle of the city.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with the woman's name.

As Anon says, also, in the guise of "safety" excessive lane widths also contribute to speeding.

(For those who are curious, here's the case for 10-feet travel lanes.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Second update added with details from court appearance.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's a piece on the sentencing:

"A Salem man was sentenced to three years in prison for hitting and killing a 68-year-old pedestrian while he was driving while intoxicated.

Jonathan Combs, 34, told police he had three or four beers before getting behind the wheel the night of Feb. 13, 2016.

Olivia Stroup, of Salem, was crossing the well-lit, marked crosswalk on 25th Street SE near Claude Street SE when Combs' vehicle struck her.

After hitting Stroup, Combs reported the crash to police. When police reached the scene, they found Combs wearing a t-shirt reading, "This guys needs a beer."

According to court records, Combs was driving home from the convenience store after purchasing beer.

He told responding officers he saw the woman at the last minute as he was driving 35 mph through a 25-mph zone.

Probably it was significantly more than "three or four" beers and faster than "35mph." But we may never learn more.