"STILLWATER, Okla. -- A woman accused of running a red light and purposely driving around a barricade and over a police motorcycle before crashing into spectators at Oklahoma State's homecoming parade was formally charged Tuesday with four counts of second-degree murder and 46 counts of felony assault."
It is so disheartening to hear that the crowd on that day was completely vulnerable to an out of control vehicle (or out of control driver) because some important part of the route was thought by authorities to be protected but really was not. If a driver, for whatever reason, can drive onto the parade route and hit fifty or more people simply by "running a red light and purposely driving around a barricade" this is not protection.
Look at Austin Texas and the SXSW Festival in April 2014. Look at Hawthorne, New Jersey four months later. Maui, Hawaii. Venice Beach, California. New York City. Queens, New York. And of course Santa Monica California in 2013. There is a long and tragic lists of accidents where the public thought it was safe because the streets they were on were closed off by officials who should know what they are doing. The public just assumes and officials have taken every step necessary to protect them -- I refer to it as "the presumption of personal safety."
I do not know all of the circumstances of this accident. I do not know all of the preventive measures that were taken, and I do not know what other incidents that have occurred over the many years that the homecoming parade has taken place. But this I do know; this accident is another accident in a long list of accidents where the public presumed that it was safe because officials told them that it was. They told them by their police presence, by their decorations, by their taped off areas, and in dozens of other ways.
Officials often think that their safety planning is good and effective because it worked last year, and officials often plan based on what the assume drivers should do or will probably do. Tragically, accident after accident and death after death prove conclusively that these are just assumptions and not truths. When innocent lives are risked, the standard has to be higher, as those cities in the paragraph above can now attest.
The National Transportation Safety Board has already given their opinion about events involving street closings and the need to take simple steps to prevent vehicle incursions. ASTM has already produced the mechanism to test measures or devices that can be used to prevent such incursions. And the City of Santa Monica has paid $24 million or more in settlements, and these other cities have paid millions and millions more dollars for these other accidents.
And now another four people have paid as well.
I am grieved for the dead and injured. I am grieved for the families of the dead and injured. I am grieved for the family of the driver. And I am sure that the whole town of Stillwater grieves as well. But I am also grieved that another preventable accident -- foreseeable, predictable, and preventable -- has killed and injured so many.
It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way. Cities and institutions and campuses and commercial areas that close down streets or vehicular areas for public events: YOU ARE ON NOTICE.