Today's post is one I would rather not feel the need to write. It is one about a fourteen year old young lady who while training for cross country was struck and killed by a car while trying to cross the street in Shenandoah, Iowa. I believe this could happen right here in West Des Moines. I assume the school has our kids training on the sidewalks along Ashworth for transportation reasons. There has to be a better way to train where there is less risk of being hit by a car or a truck.
There should be a way to alert drivers the kids are out training and perhaps public service messages would also help. Drivers need to put down their damn phones and pay attention to their driving - that's a given. Whether we do something or choose to do nothing this cross country training in the blocks surrounding Valley High School is a high risk environment for the students. And while I won't call it foolish, I also won't say it is a smart thing for us to be doing. Here is today's story about young Kinsee Rooker.
Heartbreaker out of Shenandoah, Iowa - Kinsee Rooker, 14, an all American kid, was participating in cross country practice at approximately 7:15 a.m. on June 7th. As she crossed at the intersection of Highway 2 and A Avenue in Shenandoah she was struck by a vehicle driven by Brent McKinnon. Rooker died at the scene. An investigation is ongoing in this case.
This is a tough one to report about. This is any parents nightmare. I coached youth soccer for over ten years. Three of my four children played; the other one wrestled. We live and work in West Des Moines where the Valley High School Tigers train for cross-country. As I travel to and from work I see the cross country teams running. They run on the sidewalk, stretched out for city blocks; they form a ribbon-like stream of runners right up until the intersections; where large groups bunch up like too many concert goers attempting to squeeze through an entrance door, so excited to see what is on the other side of the jam. Like cross country racehorses just before the Kentucky Derby these cc runners are all nervously running in place and wanting to be first to cross some ever-moving finish line somewhere off in the distance at the school yard. Some have their head on a swivel, nervously looking to and fro hoping and praying they will safely make it to the other side of four lane busy streets. Others blindly run with the group. I always wonder if the other drivers are even looking and really seeing, while realizing any one of these kids could simply run out into the intersection at 60th Street.
And in the streets the cars keep on keeping on. Drivers seated behind steering wheels some paying attention and many not-so-much. Texting while driving is illegal, but then so is speeding and not paying attention while they drive. But we all know what it feels like to sit at a stop light and see a driver's attention focused on their cell phone. They look up only when they sense the eyes of another driver riveted on them like the bead of a lazer beam.
I have been a personal injury lawyer for over thirty-five years and have been personally involved in over a thousand cases, probably over two thousand. I always see the aftermath through the mechanics of a lawsuit.
In every case the parties are allowed to ask each other written questions. The answers are sworn answers, meaning they have similar weight as testimony given under oath. And in almost one hundred percent of all personal injury lawsuits today at least one of those written questions wants to know the driver’s cell phone number, cell phone carrier and for the driver to state whether they were on their cell phone at the time of the actual collision. Then there is what we call a request for production. Requests for production are written instructions asking parties to produce documents. One of those documents the parties want drivers to produce are cell phone bills covering the date of the accident. That way we can all see the exact minutes the driver was on the phone and how many minutes the call lasted. We also get to know who was talking to the driver, which is as interesting as when. Because the “who”, will be a witness that can then be put under oath and questioned about what was being talked about.
And if you ever want to hear how meaningless talk increases the risks of killing a pedestrian this is the place where it happens and is peeled open and exposed. The driver will get to tell everyone what was so important that it couldn't wait. And, on the other side of the table will the parents of the child who died. They will be staring at you while you discuss whatever meaningless thing that on that day couldn't wait another fifteen minutes to yack about.
Now I know nothing about the driver of this car or the pedestrian and certainly don’t mean to insinuate anyone was on the phone. But this accident and any accidents we discuss are important opportunities to openly discuss what we see that is wrong with social behavior that increases risks of injury to pedestrians and to other people using the roads. And this discussion about discovery is a warning about what follows after an accident and the lawsuit is filed. After suit is filed, there is no hiding your use of a cell phone while driving and certainly you won’t be hiding texting.
So take heed and avoid texting and cell phone use while driving and while talking on your cell phone isn’t illegal, think about how this young ladies’ family feels and how you would feel about some trivial conversation that perhaps distracted you and ended up taking someone’s life. I don't care who has the right-of-way, the driver has the last clear chance to stop. Now if you text and drive or are always on your phone, go and look at look at this young lady, read her obituary and the comments that are made. Think about if that were your child and then consider how you would feel every year on August 13th and June 7th for the rest of your life. Because you would have to think that on ever August 13th a mother and father will be reminded of what was and on June 7th, what will never be. And then when you get behind the wheel of your car put your cell phone down and leave it there until you remove the ignition key.
As a trial lawyer who’s seen way too many death cases I can’t help but wonder why we aren't doing more to stop distracted driving. But many would say I have just seen too much and am being overly sensitive. I doubt that. Others will blame the child, I will not. As a coach I will say this. If it were my child who was running, I would say, “no way”, find a field or go down to Raccoon River’s three mile trail, where there is nothing but human traffic. And then you can run to your hearts content without wondering if the next driver is distracted. But that’s just the old coach in me, the one who worried about the players as if they were all my children. They were the Adam's, the Carmino's, the Jon's, Brad's and all the other players who gave it their all just to be better on the field. And I guess you could say they were the Kinsee's and all the other young girls who walked onto the pitch to practice while just wanting to live another day and do it all over again.
May Kinsee L. Rooker rest in peace. She's going to be a very busy young lady running in Heaven.