Minnesota law states that drivers must stop for pedestrians crossing the street in marked crosswalks, but the case of a jogger struck by an elderly motorist while in a Roseville crosswalk shows the statute may not be as clear as it seems.
The 86-year-old driver hit David Sley on Sept. 15 when he was in the center of a crosswalk on Victoria Street connecting two areas of Central Park.
Roseville City Attorney Mark Gaughan said a driver is obligated to yield if a pedestrian is known to be in a crosswalk. But he decided not to charge the driver in this case. He said statements from witnesses and the evidence presented indicated that standard was not met.
“There was reasonable doubt that the driver was aware there was a pedestrian in the crosswalk,” he said. “The driver did not see the pedestrian, and the pedestrian did not see the driver. This is not a case appropriate for criminal prosecution.”
That is wrong, said David’s father, Ben Sley, a former prosecutor in Texas and Hawaii who is pressing Gaughan to do more.
The driver called the incident “absolutely terrible” but declined further comment. The Star Tribune is not naming her because she was not charged.
The woman, who is restricted to driving only during the day, was going at the posted 40 mph speed limit when she hit David Sley about 9:30 a.m., a Roseville police report said. The impact sent Sley, 35, flying 60 feet. He landed on his head and shoulder, which left him with a brain injury, skull fractures, a severely dislocated shoulder and briefly rendered him unconscious.
Sley was one of the lucky ones. Statistics show that pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling 40 mph or faster have only a 10 to 20% chance of survival.
David Sley faces a long road to full recovery and said he’s thankful to be alive. He also said he is incredulous as to why the city attorney won’t charge the driver.
“She had an affirmative duty to stop,” he said. “It’s absurd that she is still driving.”
There is only one exception to the crosswalk law. Drivers can be absolved when a pedestrian “suddenly” leaves a curb and walks or runs into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.
In this case, the driver was traveling south on Victoria Street. The crosswalk is well marked with signs and is visible from about 100 yards in either direction. It also has flashers that pedestrians can push to alert drivers they are crossing.
The driver told police she did not see Sley until the last second before impact, and that Sley did not look at her before crossing the street, the incident report said. Witnesses at the scene corroborated that account, with one saying “they never saw each other,” the report continues.
David Sley was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear ambient noise at the time. He did not activate the crossing flashers before entering the crosswalk, the police report said.
None of that should matter, Ben Sley said. He said it is not a requirement for pedestrians to activate flashers or illegal to wear headphones, and that David didn’t suddenly step into the crosswalk. The driver, he said, had an unobstructed view of the crosswalk and had the duty to stop.
"The prosecutor is improperly putting the burden of proof on my son,” Ben Sley said. “If you are not prosecuting this case, when would you have the ability to prosecute?”
David Sley said he isn’t asking for jail time but does want the woman ordered to stop driving.
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