It Could Happen to You: The Unexpected Dangers of Driving in Residential Areas
All of us at Sessums Law Group were saddened beyond words to hear of yet another pedestrian collision in Tampa last week, with the victim being only three years old. Jenna Wooten was in the care of her 11-year-old cousin while her parents were out of the house for a quick errand just within their neighborhood. The young child somehow got out of the house and wandered into the intersection of Paul Ave. and Westshore Blvd. where she was struck by an oncoming car. The driver in this case does not appear to have been under the influence of any substances, negligent while driving, or driving at a high rate of speed. Yet, he found himself in the situation of standing by the road being interviewed by police while a child’s life hangs in the balance, and it all happened within a matter of mere moments. He wasn’t expecting it, and chances are, you aren’t either. That’s why we want to remind you of a few key things to watch for when driving in and around residential neighborhoods here in the Tampa Bay area.
One key point to note is that street parking is incredibly common in Tampa Bay, as many neighborhoods have short driveways and little space for guest parking. In Tampa, there are neighborhoods where even the homeowners themselves must park on the street due to limited space. For this reason, it can be very difficult to see if a child or pet is getting ready to run out in front of you. That’s why you should always drive with the expectation that you’ll need to stop suddenly. It’s better to be hyper-aware and prepared instead of sorry after the fact. Watch your speed when driving down streets with many cars parked on the sides of the road, and make sure your lights are on during early morning and evening hours so you are easily visible to pedestrians.
Another hazard in residential neighborhoods is the large number of kids who are present each day, and many of them spend their hours outside during the spring and summer. That means you always run the risk of one escaping from a yard, running after a rogue ball, or even just riding their bike along the side of the street. Since many homes are close together here in the subdivisions and larger neighborhoods, you might not see the oncoming risk of an accident until the child is literally stepping out in front of your vehicle. Always stay well within the posted speed limits, and be sure to come to a complete stop at all intersections. Remember that kids often don’t understand or obey the laws of crosswalks and proper pedestrian practice, so it’s important to be the one driving defensively to protect yourself and to protect them.
Finally, we have a point to make for residents who live in these neighborhoods. Teach your kids about road safety and how to handle themselves near streets. If you are leaving them home with a sitter or family member, and don’t want them outdoors because of road dangers, make sure the child AND caregivers are aware of that fact and that the caregiver is prepared to watch for any escape tricks that might be pulled during your time away. If you have very small children who enjoy being outside, consider installing a fence if at all possible so they can enjoy the outdoors safely, and invest your time and efforts into frequently checking for gaps, damaged areas, etc. that might let them leave and get into harm’s way. No investment is too great when it comes to your child’s safety.
Our thoughts and get well wishes go out to the family affected by this past week’s tragedy, and we are keeping hope for a full recovery of this little one who was impacted so greatly by this unexpected event. When the unexpected happens to YOU, we are here for you and ready to help. We are Tampa’s most trusted law team and we offer only the best in representation. Call our office or contact us online. At Sessums Law Group, WE STAND FOR YOU.