Two years ago another driver, alleged to have been driving under the influence of alcohol, drove passed a police checkpoint and into a large crowd at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin Texas, killing 4 and injuring dozens. That criminal case is still pending in Texas -- the legal fight over responsibility and damages has yet to be fought. Two years ago....
Today, a driver who is ALSO accused of driving under the influence of alcohol drove into the homecoming parade and festivities in Stillwater Oklahoma. Four are dead, 44 are injured, some critically. Twelve years after Santa Monica, two years after Austin.....
In the photo on the right above, we see the car that was involved in the Santa Monica crash. All of the damage to the front of the car and the windshield are from bodies being struck by the car and thrown into the air and onto the hood and windshield. In the photo on the left above, we have the car identified as the car involved in the Oklahoma State crash. From the looks of the car, the same damage from the same cause -- damage caused by hitting the bodies of unsuspecting pedestrians who assumed that they were perfectly safe at an event where authorities had "closed" the street.
Why have officials learned so little? Protecting the pubic at special events, PARTICULARLY special events that happen year after year, is not difficult and is not expensive. The failure to take simple steps is usually a result of not seeing that the problem exists, or worse, assuming (as the police chief in Austin did in 2014) that because no one was injured at the event last year, no one would be hurt at the event this year.
Fast moving cars and people at a parade or a music festival or a farmer's market are a horrible combination. The public presumes it is safe when they are at an official event where the streets are "closed." Like Santa Monica. Like Austin. Like Stillwater. Streets are NOT closed if cars passenger cars can so easily find there way in and when drivers can drive through at speeds great enough to kill. Those streets are not REALLY closed; they are just death traps and killing zones for innocent men, women and children who should be under the full protection of the city or the entity that is putting on the event.
After the Santa Monica crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (the NTSB) investigated the accident and had very simple and very clear guidelines on how to prevent future accidents where cars killed people at events with "closed" streets. That was in 2003. Have cities learned so little in twelve years?
It is really a simple fix. Millions of people attend these kinds of events every year in the United States. No one should be killed by a speeding car on a closed street.
At least four people will never have a homecoming after the events in Stillwater Oklahoma today. And it didn't have to be this way.