NJ Editor Blames Anyone But Drivers for Pedestrian Deaths

Today on the Streetsblog Network, more windshield perspective from journalists, via WalkBike Jersey.
Andy B, the blog’s author (and a frequent commenter on this site),
writes about an Atlantic City newspaper editor who has come up with a bizarre theory about who is responsible for the rising tide of pedestrian deaths in the Garden State.

As of November 28, the state had recorded 24 more such fatalities than it had by the same date in 2009. What did The Press of Atlantic City have to say about it? Here’s what:

16546807_6c6e0578b1.jpgPhoto: splorp via Flickr.

[A]ccording to The Press’s editor, Jim Perskie, fault lies with the pedestrian victims and State Department of Highway Traffic Safety for initiating the wildly successful Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Program
in South Jersey this year. See, according to Perskie’s twisted logic,
now that the police are reestablishing a pedestrian’s right-of-way
while in a crosswalk, this is somehow emboldening pedestrians to walk
directly out into traffic so they get hit by cars who can not stop in
time. Ridiculous!

First of all, being a devout reader of the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian News Digest,
I have not anecdotally noticed an outstanding increased trend in
pedestrian fatal crashes by people walking out into traffic at
crosswalks. Yes, there have been stories of pedestrians being killed
while crossing legally in crosswalks but no noticeable spike.

Second,
(sorry to break it to you Jimmy) but yielding (or stopping) for
pedestrians is the law in every state in the U.S. and in most other
civilized nations and is not some wacky idea that bureaucrats thought up
in Trenton. It’s been the law here in New Jersey for 50 years.

More from around the network: Better New Jersey news comes from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which posts on the NJ DOT’s new complete streets policy. Active Transportation Alliance
reports on the horrific case of a cyclist who was killed when,
apparently, one road-raging driver tried to ram another. And the LA Bicycle Coalition has the scoop on a new bicycle master plan in the city of Burbank.

  • noah

    Andy B’s (and this post’s) description of the editorial is *extremely* misleading. First of all, the editorial acknowledges that at least part of the problem is that DRIVERS don’t follow the law. Which is, I don’t know, maybe the OPPOSITE of blaming “Anyone But Drivers.”

    What’s more, the editorial author DOES NOT advocate changing the pedestrian right-of-way law. Rather, he says that, in the past, there was an emphasis on “teaching pedestrians to look both ways and wait for traffic to clear before crossing,” regardless of what the law is. Now, he says, pedestrians are being encouraged to assert their right to the crosswalk, even knowing that cars don’t follow the law. So, he says, we should return to teaching pedestrians to exercise extreme caution, regardless of whether or not they have the right of way.

    He does not take a position on enforcement of the law vis-a-vis cars. I totally agree that he should also have said that we should more vigorously enforce the pedestrian right-of-way law. But he’s also right that pedestrians should exercise extreme caution regardless of how the law is enforced. To argue otherwise is to say that pedestrians shouldn’t take into account reality, and, instead, should just hope for the best.

    Why be so disingenuous about the editorial’s content, when there are legitimate, honest criticisms that could be made instead?

  • mcas

    @noah: you say, “So, he says, we should return to teaching pedestrians to exercise extreme caution, regardless of whether or not they have the right of way.” This is exactly the blame-the-victim perspective Sblog is referring to. Telling pedestrians to wait their turn because car drivers can’t be bothered to notice a human, legally crossing in front of them is exactly ‘blame anyone but the driver’….

  • mcas

    @noah, as well– going back and reading the original piece after my previous post, you are completely mis-characterizing the original post. He is 100% blaming pedestrians for motorists failure to recognize, stop, and even claiming that following the law will result in bodily and property harm to drivers. Furthermore, he seems to think that a driver in a secondary lane should not be expected to reduce speed when passing a stopped motorist, which is ludicrous on almost every level.

  • noah

    “Telling pedestrians to wait their turn because car drivers can’t be bothered to notice a human, legally crossing in front of them is exactly ‘blame anyone but the driver’….”

    –I’m sorry, so your position is that peds should NOT look both ways, and NOT assume that cars will not obey the law? That’s terrible advice. Even if 99.9999% of cars complied with the law, encouraging pedestrian responsibility would still be a good idea. That’s why we were taught as little kids to look both ways and proceed carefully. How can anybody think that this is a bad idea??

    “he seems to think that a driver in a secondary lane should not be expected to reduce speed when passing a stopped motorist, which is ludicrous on almost every level.”

    –well, he seems to be saying that an intelligent pedestrian will not assume that the car will slow down. He does not say that the car SHOULD NOT slow down.

    He does use the unfortunate words, “how dangerous this law is.” But if you read those words in the context of the entire post, he only thinks the law is dangerous to the extent that it is used to justify NOT encouraging peds to look both ways and proceed carefully. I’m nearly 100% certain that, if you asked the author, he would say that peds should look both ways and proceed carefully, AND that cars should slow down and let peds go. Nothing in the editorial suggests otherwise.

  • noah

    One last point. The editorial only includes one proposal, which is:

    “Go back to teaching pedestrians to look both ways and wait for traffic to clear before crossing, and who knows? Just maybe fewer pedestrians will get killed.”

    He does not advocate repealing the right-of-way law. It’s unfathomable to me that anybody would disagree with this proposal. What’s the alternative? “Just go for it. Cross. Hopefully cars will stop.” Good luck with that.

  • Jean mgreen

    This entire discussion would be mute if everyone drivers and pedestrians would be more responsible, cautious, and law-abiding.  Why leave your safety up to a possible uninsured, drunk, unskilled, arrogant, tired, or otherwise distracted driver to make sure you are safe?

    Indeed, we should be extremely careful whenever  approaching, or crossing an intersetioon (especially when jay-walking, in poor lighting situations, and when the streets are wet or wide), and try to make eye contact with the driver.  It might not be your fault, but do you want to be dead right?  TAKE CARE !!!!!!!