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.
Motorists staring at cell phones instead of watching the road are a danger to people in crosswalks, outside of crosswalks, on sidewalks, standing at bus stops or anywhere else. Not to mention cyclists and other motorists. Yet, once again, the most vulnerable users of our streets are scolded about jaywalking, which has become the default explanation for pedestrian deaths even when the cause isn’t entirely clear, as described by Tom Vanderbilt recently here:
“While jaywalking is often cited as a cause of pedestrian accidents, less than 20 percent of fatalities occurred where a pedestrian was crossing outside an easily available crosswalk. And police, who largely tend to be in vehicles, often misinterpret such subtleties or exhibit a pronounced pro-driver bias.”
Meanwhile, distracted driving—which kills nearly 6,000 people a year in this country—seems to be brushed off. The officer is correct when he says pedestrians will always lose, especially if we expect so little of drivers.
Photo by hebedesign via Flickr.