Do you remember those films in driver’s training classes, the ones that are supposed to teach you about the hazards of the road? Inevitably, at some point, a child rushes out from behind a parked car and you have only a moment to avoid hitting him.
Tonight was one of those moments.
I had gotten off the #12 Santa Monica Bus at my usual corner, Palms and Sepulveda Blvds. Now, before I go any further, you have to understand this is a busy, dangerous intersection. It’s not Wilshire and Sepulveda, thank Heaven, but it’s heavily traveled, and I regularly see bad accidents and near misses there. People rush yellow and red lights, they turn after the lights have changed, the setting sun is often right in your eyes, pedestrians regularly do dumb things… the whole nine yards. (1)
So, just before 5PM, I’m waiting to cross Palms to go home, keeping my usual eye on traffic. Sure enough, there is a car with a couple of people in it (older, but not elderly I think, and I believe a woman was driving), next to me, waiting to turn right, across my path. And, of course, the driver is watching the oncoming traffic on her left, never once looking right to see anyone on her right, the direction in which she’s turning. I can’t tell you how often I curse under my breath at people who do that. (I was once nearly run down by a USPS driver doing just that. But, hey, he yelled “sorry,” so it was okay.)
So, I take note of her, but then I hear a man yell “STOP!!” and a little girl of around five goes zipping past me into the intersection trying to beat Daddy across the crosswalk, which was already flashing red.
Naturally, this was the moment the car, whose driver had never looked right, chose to start her turn.
And also the moment the little girl, in her pink outfit with a pink helmet on a pink bicycle (still had the training wheels on) heard her Daddy and stopped right in front of the moving car.
I of course, am standing there like a moron not believing what I’m seeing.
Thank God the driver must’ve heard the father or caught a glimpse of the girl, or both — she stopped in time so the child experienced only the barest tap (I heard her say “OW!”). The kid then rode to the other side, while the Dad stopped long enough to slam his fist on the hood of the car and yell a choice word or two (I’ll leave them to your imagination) and then catch up with his daughter, who I imagine was in a deserved bit of trouble.
The driver sat there in shock, and I walked home imagining the horror I’d just missed.
Naturally, the vast majority of the blame is on the driver. Too damn many people never look right when turning right, so focused they are on the oncoming traffic and looking for a chance to go. If the girl had been injured or, Heaven forbid, killed, I’d have gladly testified against them.
But the father bears a bit of blame, too. Let’s face it, little kids are often idiots, blissfully unaware of the dangers of the world. She’s out on her bike, riding with Daddy, the crossing signal goes red, and I can just imagine her saying “I’ll beat you!”
Now, such a moment is unpredictable, but what on Earth was he doing letting her ride along Palms at rush hour, with that intersection in their path,exposing her to foolish drivers? His own carelessness could have cost him his daughter.
Thankfully, no one got more than a fright this afternoon. I hope they all learned a needed lesson.
(1) The LA City Council deserves a lot of criticism for this. While they concentrate on tree-trimming regulations and more benefits for their union cronies in order to buy votes for reelection, an intersection like Palms and Sepulveda (and its twin Palms and Sawtelle) have inadequate traffic control: no turn signals, leading to all sorts of messy, hazardous situations. Daily. Their neglect of street maintenance and traffic signals is scandalous.