A couple more seconds might have prevented a 2005 accident at the intersection of College and Rollins Avenues that resulted in the amputation of a bicyclist’s left leg from the knee down, according to testimony by civil engineer Ronald Hensen.
He was called by the plaintiff's attorney in a personal injury lawsuit filed against the city of Columbia and Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, among others.
“An 'all-red clearance' is when lights turn red in all directions for only a few seconds with the intent to clear the intersection,” said Hensen, a traffic engineering specialist from Colorado.
Hensen said two extra seconds of clearance would have been enough time for the bicyclist, then 19-year-old MU student Krysten Chambrot, to safely exit the intersection. Chambrot is an MU graduate student and an employee of the Columbia Missourian.
“If two seconds had been added, it would have been reasonably safe,” said Hensen.
He added that the policy is, “pretty much universally used.”
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is published by the Federal Highway Administration, advocates such a policy, Hensen said. He also said the state of Missouri uses this manual.
The transportation commission's attorney, Zachary Cartwright, noted while cross-examining Hensen that manual entries are divided into three categories:
- standards, which must be met;
- guidelines, which should be met; or
- options, which the manual recommends.
He pointed out that an all-red clearance policy falls under the "option" category.
The standard for traffic signals is to have a yellow signal between green and red changes, and the guideline is the yellow signal's duration should be between three and six seconds. Cartwright said that the College and Rollins intersection meets both of these.
Hensen said the all-red clearance is not listed as a standard because state statutes differ on the legality of entering an intersection when the signal is yellow.
But he agreed that if Chambrot had crossed on a red light, the lack of “all-red clearance” would not have mattered.
Chambrot was first hit by a vehicle driven by Truman Veterans Hospital employee Judy Pope. She was then thrown from her bicycle and hit and dragged by a Columbia Water and Light truck driven by Michael Arens. Pope and Arens are named as defendants in the case.
Plaintiff attorney Donald Schlapprizzi argued that Chambrot entered the intersection on a green light but the signal changed while she was midway through and didn’t allow enough time for her to safely exit.
The defendants claim Chambrot entered the intersection on a red light, basing her decision to cross on the flow of traffic rather than the signal.
Testimony is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Friday.