Another Darwin Award?

The other day I almost committed vehicular manslaughter.  It was anything but my fault, and I’m still fuming about it.

I was driving back from the post office, approaching a light.  The light was green, and I was in the right lane, slowing and signaling for a right turn into the rightmost lane of a four-lane street.  Just as I got around the corner, a skateboarder whizzed off a sidewalk and straight down the middle of my lane going the wrong way and directly at me. I barely managed to get into the inner lane, fortunately empty at the time, to avoid hitting him. The skateboarder was no child, but a long-bearded young man, wearing earbuds and a bemused expression, easily traveling at fifteen miles an hour plus. Had I struck the distracted skateboarder, the results would have been exceedingly painful, if not fatal, for him, and possibly financially, morally, emotionally, and legally wrenching for me. 

The young man who almost hit me head-on was traveling quickly, going the wrong way, wearing earbuds and presumably distracted, and not wearing a helmet. That combination made him a perfect candidate for the Darwin Awards[ a satiric award recognizing individuals who have contributed to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the human gene pool by their own unnecessarily foolish actions], as did his apparent lack of awareness of just how dangerous what he was doing happened to be.

Looking at the statistics, this was anything but a freak occurrence. While in recent years, automobile fatalities have been decreasing, and overall pedestrian fatalities have decreased, injuries and fatalities have steadily increased among distracted walkers… and among skateboarders on streets and roads, rather than at skateboard parks. The number of pedestrians injured and killed while on cell phones has prompted several cities to propose penalties and citations for distracted walking, and many schools, universities, and other institutions have imposed restrictions on skateboards because of repeated occurrences of behavior dangerous to both skateboarders and others.

Part of this is because the electronics are clearly so addictive that their users lose touch with the everyday and seemingly mundane world around them, and part of the problem is that far too many young people have been given the message that they are the center of the world.  As a result, they don’t fully appreciate that if they walk or skateboard into the path of a 2,000-5,000 pound vehicle, they run a high probability of being immediately and painfully removed from both the real world and their personal illusory world… not to mention the fact that everyone else will also pay a high price.

But then… that lack of understanding may be why they’re candidates for the Darwin Award.

5 thoughts on “Another Darwin Award?”

  1. Dave Ansell says:

    Dear Lee,
    I understand your emotional shock regarding this incident but I thoroughly agree with your nomination of the skateboarder for a Darwin Award.
    Just as a Veterinarian must harden his heart & give the lethal injection to a sick suffering pet, perhaps you missed your chance to demonstrate to that idiot the consequences of his stupidity. Our “entitled youth” need to realise they are also entitled to the outcome of their actions.

  2. I agree…but the odds are that, had I hit the idiot, every jury in the U.S. would likely have found me at fault.

  3. WTB says:

    Mopeds! They are EVIL! And those little jerks riding them should have to license the pieces of trash! I hate’em with a passion! And when you run over them they should NOT be considered a pedestrian.


  4. Karl says:

    He does sound to have been a complete moron, with it having been entirely his own fault for what could have happened. But then I think of the number of times I’ve been completely lost in a book, or speaking to a good friend, through text or otherwise, and become completely unaware of my surroundings. Though I guess in these situations I tend to entirely cut off from the outside world and will stop anything else I’m doing. So unless I start reading in the middle of a road (significantly improving my chances of candidacy for a Darwin award), I should be good!
    and @WTB, I don’t think anyone mentioned mopeds, but thankfully in the UK the driver does have to be both licensed and insured.

  5. Wine Guy says:

    Bicyclists, pedestrians, and skateboarders in college towns all seem to have death wishes. Every weekend, there are dozens of them in my ER getting fixed up… or pronounced dead.

    The only part you forgot, Mr. Modesitt, is the presence of pot/alcohol/vicodin/other euphorient which seems quite a bit more common these days.

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