“Distracted drivers” or pedestrians’ own risky behavior to blame?
According to this report released by the Governors (no apostrophe) Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths are soaring and Arizona ranked number three in the nation on the 2016 list of fatalities. (Table 6, Page 14 of the report.) Colorful infographics are even included.
The blame, it says, lies with distracted drivers. “Enforcement is crucial to changing driver behavior,“ the report declares. It was authored by transportation consultant Richard Retting who works for Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants .The east coast duo have found their niche.
It’s a good bet that most drivers in the Valley and Phoenix metro area would take exception to that misguided characterization blaming them for increased fatalities. Start paying attention to marked crosswalks. Keen observers are well aware that crosswalks are routinely avoided by pedestrians. With children in tow, parents will run across one lane of traffic and then stand in the median waiting for a break in oncoming cars to charge across the opposite lane. This dangerous behavior is customary, by no means an occasional anomaly.
Others will saunter across the street a dozen or more feet outside the crosswalk as if the marked lines providing pedestrian safety were for someone else. Lines are not for the cool. They are for obedient dolts.
Socioeconomic factors also play a role. When Phoenix area summertime temperatures are routinely in the triple digits, people are not walking for pleasure. They are walking because they have no choice. Could it be resentment of their circumstances makes the idea of staying within the crosswalks less appealing?
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, from 2004 to 2014, there were an average of 22 confirmed wrong-way crashes on freeways each year, and eight fatalities on average each year from such calamities. How many of those drivers are unable to read the signs?
Bicyclists have their own lanes in most cities these days. Life should be good for the greenies. But they no longer walk their bikes across busy streets and frequently switch into auto lanes using driver‘s arm signals to show they are not pedaling lesser modes of transportation. Helmets provide minimal protection. When they are in the driver’s blind spot, tragedy can result.
Motorcyclists, repeatedly changing lanes while speeding through traffic are another risky group, posing hazards to pedestrians and other vehicles on the roadways.
The report did concede that 82% of deaths occurred outside of intersections. That fact alone confirms that “distracted drivers” are not the culprits to pedestrians who thumb their noses at the painted lines in the street, put there to ensure their safety.
Look for the Governors Highway Safety Association to keep churning out these half-baked reports — between attending conferences in Seattle, Washington; Nashville, Tennessee; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 2017 conference is slated for Louisville, Kentucky. They might think of using that confab to put the onus for pedestrian deaths where it most frequently belongs — with the pedestrians.