Arthur Knochenhauer of Fort Lauderdale, Florida killed by an SUV while running in the Michelob Ultra Half Marathon on Sunday morning. The accident occurred along the 1700 block of Las Olas Boulevard near the Floridian Restaurant. Authorities announced that Knochenhauer, 80, died on Monday.
How a runner was killed in the middle of giant marathon is beyond me!
With the cones, police, hoardes of runners, and signs everywhere, it beguiles the mind how a driver could kill a runner – even by South Florida’s driving standards.
This man’s death should be a loud and clear siren to everyone in our community. It is time drivers in South Florida paid better attention, texted less, and drove with greater care. Maybe don’t drive with such an entitled attitude for once.
It is also time for our elected leaders to invest the money, time, and effort need to improve our infrastructure and make our roadways safer for pedestrians. It is time South Florida finally developed a culture of pedestrianism that mirrors that found in other major cities.
What Happened to Arthur Knochenhauer?
The driver of the black BMW SUV, whose identity has not been released, struck Knochenhauer after entering a closed-off portion of the half-marathon route. Organizers and police were on the scene within minutes of the collision and did what they could to help the runner until paramedics arrived. He was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center but he did not survive.
According to witnesses, the impact sent the 80-year-old man flying through the air. Footage from news sources captured one of his sneakers laying on the pavement as well as his baseball cap wedged into the SUV’s front windshield.
The driver remained on the scene and cooperated with investigators. He was reportedly asked to perform an alcohol breath test, but the results have not been released to the public. It is still unclear if he will face any charges.
Knochenhauer’s family members and relatives also released a statement expressing shock, saying he had been an avid runner who had participated in several marathons.
Florida Leads the Nation in Pedestrian Fatalities
Not only are pedestrian deaths on the rise, but Florida is NUMBER TWO in the country for the most pedestrian fatalities.
According to a study on Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, published by the Governors Highway Safety Association, Florida is one of four states that collectively account for 42% of all pedestrian deaths. Let that sink in – we may be a big state, but we seem to have a disproportionate amount of pedestrian fatalities.
Florida is also one of three states that lead the nation for having the highest rates of pedestrian deaths per resident population. That means, when you consider a set number of people, say 100,000, we still have more deaths. In other words, Florida’s large population isn’t the only reason why we have more pedestrian deaths. There are other causes too.
Between 2009 and 2014 another statistically significant thing occurred: Total traffic deaths decreased nationally by about 4%, while pedestrian deaths increased by 19%.
In fact, pedestrian deaths account for the largest portion of traffic fatalities in the last 25 years!
What does this tell us?
I am not an actuary or a statistician, but I do have my own professional perspective based on my work as a personal injury attorney. I attribute the rise in pedestrian deaths to the following:
- Phone use while driving
- Safer automobiles
- More people are pedestrians
- Florida’s weather
- Government is slow to catch up
Let me explain –
During the same time period (2009-2014) when pedestrian deaths increased 20%, iPhone sales also increased – by about 800%. This means two things to me as a personal injury attorney – we have a deadly combination of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians.
As it relates to the death of Arthur Knochenhauer, obviously a cell phone did not distract the victim. He was in the midst of running a marathon that was marked off, guarded by police, and crammed with people. He was clearly not at fault in any capacity.
However, insofar as litigation of his death is concerned, whether or not the driver of the BMW was using a cell phone is of TREMENDOUS importance.
In fact, I routinely demand cell phone records in car accident cases. Proving a driver was using his/her cell phone at the time of the crash proves their attention was divided. In fact, when this evidence comes to light, it often has the effect of strengthening claim for wrongful death.
As a tangent – to understand the signifance of cell phone use in personal injury litigation, you need to first view a case like the courts do. To win in court, a personal injury case must have two basic components:
- Proof the defendant party was negligent
- Proof that their negligence caused injury or death
By obtaining and using evidence of cell phone use, a personal injury attorney can prove the driver was negligent, thereby proving that he/she should be held accountable for the injuries or death that were caused.
In any event, the growing use of cell phones has also increased the prevelance of distracted people. We all have seen this – whether it is someone on their phone in traffic or a person walking through a parking lot not paying attention. At the end of the day, I personally beleive this has increased the number of pedestrian deaths substantially.
Safer Automobiles, More Pedestrians, Great Weather, and Government:
There is no doubt that cars, trucks, and SUV’s have all become safer vehicles during the past 25 years. Air bags, steel reinfornced frames, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are advances that have simply made traveling inside a motor vehicle safer. As a result, fewer people are getting killed in car accidents.
At the same time, we live in a green thinking era. More people are riding bicycles and walking rather than driving than ever before. We also live in an era where more and more people are exercising outdoors, including jogging, power walking, and the like.
Not to mention the fact that Florida also has great weather all year long. When people up north are bundling up and staying indoors, people in Florida are still outside enjoying the sun and fresh air. That is why Florida has had a growing population for decades.
Considering all of these factors in one greater picture, we have to conclude there are more pedestrians outside in the proximity of motor vehicles than ever before. As a result, more and more pedestrians are being killed in accidents than ever before.
To make matters worse, government has been very slow to make Florida a truly pedestrian friendly place. The increasing number of pedestrian deaths prove this. For instance, while Florida does have dedicated bicycle lanes in certain places, government in Florida does not promote a culture of pedestrianism like other cities do. As a result, drivers are not as aware of pedestrians or as careful around pedestrians as they are in other places. Moreover, Florida does not have cities where large groups of pedestrians cross intersections en masse as they do in places like New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco.
Analyzing Arthur Knochenhauer’s death from the professional persepctive of a personal injury lawyer, I see a number of key issues. First and foremost, my instinct as a lawyer tells me the obvious – that the driver of the BMW that hit Mr. Knochenhauer was clearly at fault. Moreover, I highly doubt Mr. Knochenhauer contributed to causing this accident in any capacity whatsoever.
Think of the evidence – that Knochenhauer was running in the Michelob Ultra Half Marathon. Not only was he running in a large group of people who would have been visible to any driver, but the race was cordoned off to vehicular traffic, there were signs marking the event all over the place, and there was obvious police presence controlling traffic.
As a resident of Fort Lauderdale, I am familiar with the various races and walk-a-thons that take place outside and I can tell you it is virtually impossible for a driver to not notice them.
In light of these facts, my belief that the driver was completely at fault is only reinforced.
If you recall what we said earlier about the components of a personal injury claim, a winning case has two basic parts: Proving Negligence and Proving Injury. The evidence already known suggests that proving negligence will be fairly easy.
If the driver and his/her insurance company fail to act in good faith and take responsibility for what happened, I bet further investigation would reveal a distracted driver. It is so common, it happens in almost every case. I bet cell phone records and other digital evidence would prove the driver was either texting, watching a video, sending an email, or doing something else that kept their eyes, ears, and brain off the road.
Sadly, injury in this case is of the most serious kind. From a legal analysis persepctive, there isn’t much to discuss. This accident caused someone’s death and that is the worst thing possible.
Even though liability seems to squarely sit with the driver of this car, I would hope the Michelob Ultra Half Marathon people would take this as an opportunity to audit their safety efforts. Clearly, any race or walk-a-thon demands safety as its first priority. It would be irreponsible to simply blame the driver and not take a look at themselves too.
Arthur Knochenhauer’s death is also an opportunity for the City of Fort Lauderdale to do an audit of its own. While I am sure police did a professional job, any time a pedestrian is killed in an event where they are providing traffic control and security, an after-action analysis should be peformed.
There is no doubt that traffic homicide investigators have conducted a thorough investigation. Their findings ought to be heeded by the City so that they can do their best to prevent future accidents. Their reports are public record and should be available to the family and their attorneys soon.
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