Blaming the Pedestrian, Again

Despite the growing national attention to the dangers posed by
distracted driving, full accountability for drivers who kill or maim
pedestrians while fiddling with electronic devices is likely a long way
off. As today’s post from Streetsblog Network member Sustainable Savannah notes, law enforcement officials too often seem to see things from the perspective of the person behind the windshield:

dont-walk_1.jpgPhoto: hebedesign via Flickr

While researching a recent pedestrian death in Savannah, I ran across this television news report,
which I think deserves to be examined on its own. If I’m hearing him
correctly, this is the message delivered by a Savannah Chatham
Metropolitan Police officer:

"Someone could be looking down at their cellphone. Next
thing they know they look up and there’s a kid in the road or a person
in the road where they are not supposed to be at. And they don’t have
time to stop. And like I said, pedestrians will lose that battle every
time."

Perhaps this short comment from the officer was taken from a longer
segment in which he railed against distracted driving. I hope that’s
the case and if so, I commend him for it. But if not, it suggests a
terribly casual attitude toward an awfully dangerous practice.

Sustainable Savannah links to Tom Vanderbilt’s recent excellent essay on Slate, "In Defense of Jaywalking."
Read it if you haven’t already. It is a concise and well-researched
examination of the biases against pedestrians — biases that are
reflected in media coverage and law enforcement, but most importantly,
in street design.

More from around the network: Transportation for America will be hosting an online discussion December 7 on conservatives and public transportation. Biker Chicks of West Chester decries the push to register bikes in Philadelphia. And Mobilizing the Region talks about how transit operating aid is the best route to job creation.

  • Dave

    Oh please. There’s nothing in that quote which is anti-pedestrian! It’s obviously a condemnation of distracted drivers. It’s pointing out the obvious — that in a car vs. pedestrian accident, the pedestrian always loses.

    I’m not denying that for a long time, urban design has been too focused on cars and needs to focus more on pedestrians and providing balance between the two. But this quote is not ammunition in that fight. Lipstick on a pig, anyone?

  • That quote from the officer might be taking the reality of the situation into light – i.e. people do drive distracted – but it also sounds as if he is saying that it’s just the way it is and that pedestrians just have to accept that fact.

    And when the news is using just that quote on their broadcast (in context or not), it makes it sound like the driver isn’t at fault of checking their text messages while driving. And the captive audience is going to hear/see that and think that behavior is acceptable.

  • Poor Shane Price. He just moved from New York, where maybe cars are a little more aware of those sorts of things.

  • You have to protect yourself out there. Nobody is going to do it for you.

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