Send Rescue

By Alex Thompson

She’s sobbing, and a blood pressure cuff hangs from her arm, tracking her pulse.  Ten men and myself stand around and none are talking to her and she’s sobbing.  I feel sad for her, I feel sad with her.  I want to take her hand to connect to her and soothe her, to calm her crying, but the fireman is to her left, and the policeman to her right, and I feel uncomfortable entering their space.  She needs a mom; moms rush in, they don’t give a shit about space.

Ten minutes earlier ‘Mouse’ and I are walking south.  We hear skidding tires, and we turn around to see two things.  We see an SUV rocking back, as if it had just braked hard.  We see a car careening toward a pole.

It slams into the pole.

Mouse and I start walking, then start running toward the wreck.  The SUV eases forward, as if evaluating, then guns it, turning left down Venice Blvd, leaving.  “Chase it down” the bikeless Mouse says to me, but in the space between setting my bike down and mounting it, I realize there’s no way I’m catching him, not at 3am with no traffic and no lights in sight.

A green cab takes off after the SUV.

We run up on the car.  It’s wrapped part way around the pole, and the airbags make it impossible to see inside.  Out of nowhere, a young man, and then a young woman pop out from the car.  “Are you alright?”  “Are you ok?”  “Yes.”  “Are you alright?”  “Yes, I think so.”  We ask again, but they seem ok.


Mouse is on the phone with dispatch.  What a great guy – he’s on top of it.  “Alex, they want to talk to you.”

“Hello?”  “Do you need paramedics?”  “No.  No, I think they’re ok.  It was a hit and run, are you sending police?”  The girl says her arms hurt.  I look at the mangled car.  “I was wrong.  Send rescue, send paramedics.”  “Ok sir, we’re sending paramedics.”  “Send rescue . . .”

We all stand around, talking, and I notice a car run over some debris in the intersection.  It’s way out in the intersection, like the collision threw it.  I go and pick it up.  It’s a license plate.

____________________

I wrote a post a while back, when LAPD told us that 23% of bike involved collisions are hit and run.  The way I wrote it, the way it was received, it was like “how obscene is this?”  You get hit riding a bike, 1 in 4 chance you’re left for dead.  1 in fucking 4.  Disgusting.

We are not special.  38% of all collisions in LA are hit and run.  Motorists are MORE likely to be victims of hit and run.  More likely.

Does this make anyone mad?  Does this make anybody else furious and embarassed for the human race?

This isn’t a cycling issue.  It’s an LA issue.  It’s an issue everywhere there are roads.

____________________

She’s fine, but she’s animated, fretting about her car.  She just nearly died and she’s so upset about her car.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Why would you think about that?

Shock.

Mouse and I try to get her to sit down.

The driver of the green cab returns.  We all go over and he tells us how he got some numbers off the plate.  “It’s a Ford SUV.”  We talk about how old it is, how it’s shaped.  I wonder how we will get her to sit down again?  “Not like an Escalade” I say, “but high and narrow.”  “Like an Explorer” he says.  Silver.

He’s working, so he’s got to go.  We take down his info and he leaves

The firemen, show up next, and then the cops show up a second later.  They examine the victims.  While Mouse and I talk with the cops, a fireman sits her down.  He puts the blood pressure cuff on her arm, and then I guess her adrenaline wears off, and she starts to cry.

Mouse and I are talking with the investigators about the accident, and while we’re talking, illustrating the collision with our hands, we’re toeing the license plate on the ground.  I noticed that the plate on the ground doesn’t match the plate on car, but I don’t put it together.  The cop – he does.

The plate is from the SUV.  It doesn’t match, because it’s not from the car.  And like the cabbie said, it begins in 6, and there’s a 75.

We didn’t see the two cars make contact.  How would the plate come off if they didn’t make contact?  All me and Mouse saw was the SUV stopped, and the car careening into the pole.  I just assumed that the SUV participated in the accident, possibly forcing the victims to swerve, but there was no contact . . . except, by the time we turned around, the car was past the SUV.

We all go and look at the side of the car.  The door to the back seat is crumpled in.  The SUV must have hit the side of the car and knocked it’s plate off in the process.  The victims were probably turning left, the impact deflected their turn, directing them into the pole.

They run the plate.  It’s a Ford.  SUV.

____________________

We talk a lot about hit and run.  We talk a lot about hit and run on cyclists.  And cyclists getting hurt.  And the injustices of that.

This issue is so much broader.  As immersed as many of us are in cycling, it’s hard to think that something could be more important.  But the fact is that most victims of hit and run are not cyclists.

It’s happening out there, and it’s happening to everyone – not just cyclists.  Hit and run perps are getting away with it, and you know where they drive once they leave the scene?  They drive in LA neighborhoods where people walk and run.  They drive past churches and swimming pools and farmers markets.  They drive on freeways.  They drive past elementary schools.  They are, very much, among us.

Leaving the scene where someone could be dying, where they may need aid, it’s uncivilized.  It’s sociopathic.  It’s a conscious decision not to take care of a person in desperate need.  It’s inhumane, hell, it’s not ever mammalian.  Mammals take care of their own.

We need to think broadly about it.

____________________

It’s time for me and Mouse to go.  I’m tired, he’s tired, and we’re not doing shit.  I mean, there’s nothing for us to do.

I approach the girl.  “Can I have your number please?”  Between sobs she gives me ten digits, and I read them back to her.  “I’m going to call you tomorrow and we’ll talk about this, ok?”  She nods.  I leave her sobbing, having done nothing to soothe her.

I’m so lame.

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9 Responses to “Send Rescue”

  1. Are hit and runs a city issue or a state issue? This is indeed a serious problem for everyone in L.A. who leaves their homes and travel on or near a roadway (all travel!). My thoughts are that statewide lobbying for more stringent hit and run laws is necessary to effect change. There must be tangible repercussions in order for attitudes and behaviors to change. Perhaps an incentive system for witnesses to report hit and runs would also help to stem this heinous acts. It’s certainly worth the fight. It’s shameful that so many people run from the responsibility of their own actions, but finger-shaking certainly isn’t going to change that.

  2. You did the right thing, but it’s mystifying that you would say you were “lame” for not doing more to console her. Was how you interacted with her actually lame?

  3. That’s just how I felt at the time.

    KC – they’re a state, county and city issue. The laws are written at the state level, but they’re mostly enforced by city police (though sometimes by CHP.) Once a report is written, then it either goes to the DA’s office for felony prosecution (County level) or the CA’s office for misdemeanor prosecution (city level.)

    And actually, I think finger wagging does a lot – it enforces and creates a social norm that hit and run is diabolical and will end with ostracization. This has been a big part of mitigating drunk driving, and it can play a role here too.

  4. “Lame”? You absolutely did the right thing by giving a damn, and you would not have felt any less helpless even with advanced paramedic training and years of experience.

    You did the right thing by staying on scene, by summoning professionals trained to do what you could not, and by providing comfort to a fellow mammal.

    You are continuing to do the right thing by advocating for laws that will recognize and punish these psychopaths for what they are: criminals who do not belong on the road.

    I look forward to seeing whether this issue will be addressed at tomorrow’s symposium.

  5. Thanks TQ. I’m not ready to walk in front of a bus or anything, I was just trying to project how I felt at the time = my dissatisfaction with the situation.

    I’m not sure what symposium you’re referring to? There is Bikeside Speaks on the 22nd.

  6. I think what TQ is referring to is:

    Metro’s 2010 Pedestrian Symposium
    “Walking into the Future City”
    Wednesday, May 12, 2010
    8:30am – 3:30pm
    Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor

    wish i could go…

    great story btw. Glad you were there to assist. it can be so surreal and you can feel so helpless. I’m happy some of us still have that ‘compassionate’ gene.

    I wish more people would take time out of their “busy” lives and stop and assist victims of crimes like this. Seems so many people are too much “in a hurry” to care about their fellow man and end up making sometimes fatal mistakes or passively allow terrible crimes to happen — all at the cost of ‘not being late’. Hey, you’re going to be late anyways if you’re driving a car. Everyone needs to realize that slowing down a little will not cost them much time and will actually make their lives much more peaceful, healthy and livable.

    Driver friends and family laugh it off when I cite the “car is more dangerous than bike” stats. Who is the ‘nut’ or ‘crazy’ one, really?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Thompson shares a moving recount of witnessing the aftermath of a hit-and-run collision, noting that it affects even more drivers than cyclists — in fact, he [...]

  2. Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines - May 13th, 2010

    [...] Dramatic Write-Up of a Hit and Run from the Witnesses Viewpoint (Bikeside) [...]

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