Neil Kelly is one of the unluckiest people in the world.
You see, over the course of the past 10 months, Kelly has been struck by a vehicle no less than three times — twice in the same intersection. To make matters worse, he was not in the wrong in either of those events, and he is also wheelchair bound.
Kelly recalls the first incident, as he had only been in his new job for two weeks. An SUV slammed into him, knocking him out of his wheelchair. A coworker was first on the scene, and asked if he was okay. USA Today picks up the story from there.
“I can’t feel anything below my waist,” Kelly replied. Then, as color drained from the coworker’s face, Kelly started to laugh. “No, no, no, that’s normal,” he said. It was 7:57 a.m. on October 20, 2017. Kelly, who has been paralyzed since birth and uses a motorized wheelchair, was crossing Central Parkway on his way to work. He was in the crosswalk. He had the walk signal. The driver of an SUV apparently didn’t see him as she made a right turn onto Central Parkway.”
The story continues, elaborating on Kelly’s sense of personal pride and courage — as well as having become a notable public figure in the neighborhood.
“While Kelly has a strong sense of humor about the whole thing, he has become something of an accidental crusader for wheelchair awareness. The second incident was when Kelly was on his way home from work, fresh off the bus in a residential area. He was going past a driveway when a car started backing out. Kelly was too far to go back, but too far away to make it across. He had time to wonder if the car was going to stop in time. It didn’t. Yet another SUV on wheelchair crime had taken place.”
The third time that he was struck was again on Central Parkway — this time, on the other side of the road. A hotdog cart was partially blocking visibility. He waited for the light to change. When all signals were go, he looked both ways, and started across. That was the moment in which a church van turned the corner — and collided with Kelly.
It is important to be aware of people in wheelchairs. They are in a vulnerable position, as they are lower to the ground than you might expect when driving a vehicle.
There is a similar blindness with regard to people on motorcycles. They often go unseen by drivers, but at least they are on powerful vehicles that can help them elude trouble. A person in a wheelchair has no time — or ability — to react quickly in the face of a vehicular threat.
Be aware of blind-spots this holiday season, and beyond.