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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stop, Look and Listen

Наезд на пешехода: hitting a pedestrian, vehicle-pedestrian collision

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Visitors to Moscow can't help but notice that the city is a war zone: пешеходы (pedestrians) and водители (drivers) are locked in battle. Drivers seem to regard pedestrians as unpleasant impediments in their path -- something like potholes, only bumpier. Pedestrians seem to regard drivers as cows in an otherwise quiet field they are crossing -- something to be watched, but not feared. At least that's what it looks like to me when, say, mothers cross Tverskaya at rush hour with toddlers in tow, or teenagers stroll across the Third Ring Road in dark clothes, sunglasses and sound-blocking earphones.

This spring has produced a particularly nasty crop of pedestrian accidents. If you want to discuss them at the water cooler, here's a short primer. Не дай Бог (God forbid) you should ever need to know this stuff for personal reasons.

Officially, this kind of ДТП -- or дорожно-транспортное происшествие (traffic accident; literally, road-vehicle incident) -- is called наезд на пешехода (literally, collision with a pedestrian). When talking about this, a person is said to have "committed" the collision: Он совершил наезд на мужчину, переходившего дорогу (He hit a man who was crossing the road). If the driver just nicked the pedestrian, use the verb pair задевать/задеть: Он проехал на красный свет и задел 60-летнего мужчину (He went through a red light and clipped a 60-year-old man). If the driver knocked the poor fellow off his feet, use сбивать/сбить: Водитель сбил мужчину (The driver hit a man).

According to Russian law, if this terrible event occurs, the driver is supposed to stop, help the person and call for assistance. Although Russian drivers sometimes just continue on, Russian doesn't have an easy way to say "hit and run." You can use the verb pair оставлять/оставить, as in, водитель оставил место аварии (The driver left the accident scene); or the cowardly сбегать/сбежать (to run away from) -- водитель сбежал с места ДТП (The driver ran from the scene of the accident); or the nefarious скрываться/скрыться (to disappear, go into hiding) -- виновник ДТП скрылся с места преступления (The person responsible for the accident fled the scene).

An important legal factor is where the accident occurred. It's bad for the driver if the pedestrian was in the пешеходный переход (pedestrian crosswalk), often called зебра (zebra). Проезжая часть is a commonly used phrase that means the roadway -- that is, the part of the road that vehicles drive on, excluding shoulders and crosswalks. Although many Russians cross the street whenever they want, there isn't an easy way to say "jaywalking." You can say, Он сбил пешехода на проезжей части (He hit a jaywalker; literally, he hit a pedestrian on the roadway), or он перебегал дорогу в неположенном месте (He was jaywalking; literally, he ran across the street in the wrong place). To drivers, this can seem like something else: Пешеход бросился под мою машинy (The pedestrian threw himself under the wheels of my car).

Another legal factor is how badly the poor pedestrian is hurt. Worst of all is наезд на пешехода со смертельным исходом (literally, a vehicle-pedestrian collision with a fatal outcome). This is usually said more directly: Он сбил женщину насмерть (He hit and killed the woman). What drivers are hoping for is this: Пешеход отделался легким испугом (The pedestrian got off with a slight scare).

What I hope for is that Russians reread Ilf and Petrov's novel "The Golden Calf," which begins with the words, Пешеходов надо любит (Pedestrians must be loved).

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.