Death by design in autoAmerica

How to explain the inexplicable death of Sabrina Obando?

The 22-year-old UF grad from Miami was crossing NW 8th Avenue at 10th Street on Jan. 4 when she was stuck and killed by a vehicle.

Was it speeding? Well, shortly after her death, Gainesville City commissioners decided to lower speed limits throughout the city, so that’s a possibility.

Except that the vehicle that struck her was making a left turn off 10th at a light, and it is unlikely that it was moving at excessive speed at the time.

Perhaps this was just another case of a careless jaywalker being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Except that Obando was walking in the crosswalks when she was struck.

Or maybe it was just another pedestrian run over in the dark of night.

No, it was practically high noon. About 12:30, according to reports.

Gotta be traffic congestion. We know that more than one pedestrian has been run over on University Avenue while morning or afternoon commuters rushed to or from work.

But from all indications, traffic was not overwhelming at the time of the, um, accident.

Drunken driving? No indication of such from GPD?

Distracted walking? Again, no evidence.

So how to explain Sabrina Obando’s death?

Well, here’s one possibility.

Maybe she died of reckless marketing.

Of consumerism driven to lethal extremes.

At the hands of manufacturers who put profits ahead of human consequences.

And negligence on the part of government “safety” agencies that simply don’t do their jobs.

Here’s what little we know about the death of Sabrina Obando from the skimpy facts supplied by GPD and the subsequent news reporting.

“Obando, who was struck by a Ford F150 making a left turn…” reported The Alligator.

What do we know about the Ford F-150?

Well we know that Ford’s F series trucks are, year and and year out, the best selling vehicles in America.

And we know that pickup trucks on the whole, especially really big, heavy and powerful trucks, dominate the top 10 list of best selling vehicles.

And here’s something else we know, thanks to recent news reports.

A new study from the Institute for Highway Safety found that so-called “light” trucks are “particularly dangerous when turning.

“At intersections, the odds that a crash that killed a crossing pedestrian involved a left turn by the vehicle versus no turn were about twice as high for SUVs, nearly 3 times as high for vans and minivans and nearly 4 times as high for pickups as they were for cars. The odds that a crash that killed a crossing pedestrian involved a right turn by the vehicle were also 89 percent higher for pickups and 63 percent higher for SUVs than for cars. Such turning crashes accounted for more than 900 of around 5,800 fatal pedestrian crashes at or near U.S. intersections during 2014-18.” This from a IHF press release.

Turns out that those big, tall, over-powered and often jacked-up pickups pose a visibility problem for drivers…and thus a danger for pedestrians who happen to get in their way.

“It’s possible that the size, shape or location of the A-pillars that support the roof on either side of the windshield could make it harder for drivers of these larger vehicles to see crossing pedestrians when they are turning,” say IHF researchers.

Streetsblog reports that “the massive blind zones of the 2021 Ford F-150, one of the most popular new cars sold in the U.S today, can fit a staggering 578 preschoolers if they crowd close together, according to a calculator sponsored by USDOT.”

Which raises a critical question about public safety, dangerous products and, yes, the value of human life.

If we know that these oversized vehicles are capable of so much death and destruction, why do we allow them on the public streets?

“Despite the mountain of evidence that today’s most popular cars are too dangerous for anyone outside the vehicle, the federal Department of Transportation has long been hesitant to regulate them — and in particular, to set limits on how tall, heavy, or aggressively designed the front end of a light truck can legally be. To date, only one federal motor vehicle safety has ever explicitly addressed how the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users is impacted by any vehicle design choices, and it was rescinded in 1994; the agency hasn’t proposed another one in 40 years.” This from Streetsblog.

The answer is all too obvious.

Consumers want these pickups because they are big, and fast and powerful…the rolling definition of American masculinity. And consumer demand seems to outweigh all other factors in autoAmerica.

You might as well ask why we continue to manufacture and sell ever more powerful and ever more efficient firearms, even knowing that tens of thousands of Americans will die each year because we do.

It is, simply, the American way.

Did Sabrina Obando die of reckless consumerism gone unchecked? We will likely never know.

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