And the Victim Blaming Continues

Caltrans is boasting about its truly tasteless public service announcements. Photo: Caltrans
Caltrans is boasting about its truly tasteless public service announcements. Photo: Caltrans

There was a bit of a dust-up late Friday on Twitter when the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition called out Caltrans over “public service” announcements that blame our most vulnerable road users for their own deaths and injuries.

Caltrans response was to show the SFBC that, yes, cyclists are also to blame for their own deaths and injuries. See the lower right frame:

This new Caltrans series of public service announcements is sure to blame cyclists and pedestrians for not looking better when they get run down.
This new Caltrans series of public service announcements blames cyclists and pedestrians for not looking when they get run down.

This ad is obviously done by the same people who did an ad in Montgomery, Alabama, that holds people responsible for getting run over if they wear dark clothing.

Meanwhile, California’s Office of Transportation Safety released a television ad that concludes by pronouncing that “they’re both wrong” if a pedestrian crosses legally and a car runs a red light. According to them, the pedestrian shares the blame for not paying sufficient attention to anticipate the motorist was going to blow the signal.

And, of course, San Mateo County wants to now make it illegal to look at your phone while crossing the street legally.

As injury attorney Anthony Label posted as part of the Twitter exchange (in response to two more excellent points from the Bicycle Coalition):

With some 700 pedestrians killed each year in California by motorists, that means lots of people have to drive by these awful signs who may have lost a son, daughter, father, mother, friend, or sibling to traffic violence. As the Bike Coalition and Label are pointing out, imagine how these PSAs make them feel?

Blaming vulnerable road users for their own injuries and deaths is cruel and absurd. As this story about a traffic study done in Edmonton, Alberta, showed, the vast majority of car wrecks are with other cars.

And after that: stationary objects.

What’s next? Is Caltrans going to blame telephone poles, parked cars, fire hydrants, buildings, and trees for collisions?

Because telephone poles don’t come with bumpers. Look both ways.

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