The United States’ first federal “National Pedestrian Safety Month” is already under criticism from pedestrian safety advocates. Kea Wilson has an article on Streetsblog USA that doesn’t mince words:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] released its plans for the month-long public awareness effort yesterday, which includes a cache of social media graphics rife with some of the most toxic lies and misperceptions about how to keep walkers safe — and zero mention of real policy and infrastructure reforms that could actually saves lives.
Here are just a few of the low-lights.
It is sadly unsurprising, but this campaign seems to just spread propaganda for the car industry. Its messages blame pedestrians for their own deaths and ignore the reality that our streets and cars are deadly-by-design. Pedestrians aren’t the ones killing pedestrians. Cars are.
One of the most tiring myths is the one of distracted pedestrians. As Wilson notes, only 2 percent of all pedestrian crashes involve a walker with a phone, yet these cases get the most attention. This myth is even more absurd when juxtaposed with the NHTSA’s message about how most pedestrians who are killed are aged between 50 and 64. Are we supposed to imagine that 64-year-olds all walk with their faces glued to their phones?
(And what does the NHTSA want people in that age range to do, anyway? Grow younger?)
Agencies like NHTSA could, of course, work to ensure cars don’t kill pedestrians, regardless of their age or what color clothes they’re wearing. But doing that requires our whole culture to change course away from normalizing car violence, and instead start valuing the lives and dignity of people outside of cars.