A Response to Today’s Blame the Victim Op/Ed in the Los Angeles Times
(Note: Read this first. – DN)
I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your earlier article about the dangers many people take when they decide to go for a walk to get where they need to go. I take at least two walks a day with my one-year old daughter, and another bike ride with my four year old son. At least five to ten times a day I’m menaced in the crosswalk, the addition of a child to my trip does little to stop cars from parking in the crosswalk, run red lights, or do any number of dangerous things.
I found a number of things troubling about today’s op/ed published in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Taking steps to keep pedestrians safe.”
While I do agree with you that your reader, Kurt Smith, who is a member of the LAPD Valley Traffic Division “ought to know” the reasons for crashes. I do take issue with your blanket agreement that in most crashes involving pedestrians, it is the pedestrians who are at fault.
And I’m not the only one. So do federal government studies that examine the causes of traffic crashes and deaths.
For example, a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that there are a number of issues that go into a crash, the largest issues being a built environment that encourages speed and does not have enough safe crossings. Time of day is also a major factor, as driver visibility is reduced at night. Yet, many drivers still insist on driving near or over the posted speed limit.
As for the behavior of individuals that cause crashes:
Most drivers committed some type of unsafe action on at least one occasion. Driver actions at the time of the crash indicate the risks pedestrians encounter on roadways. This indicates that more attention may need to be paid to law enforcement and driver training.
I can go on, but I don’t want to embarrass you or him.
While I understand the purpose of today’s piece was to “educate” pedestrians that cars can hit and kill them, a statement that isn’t exactly breaking news; the piece reads as though it is victim blaming. I know you decided to print reader letters, and maybe your better sense was overwhelmed by some of what you read, but a column in the Los Angeles Times is a chance to educate.
For example, one reader notes that he has many harrowing experiences behind the wheel with suicide pedestrians jumping off the curb at him. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the hoards of people walking who are the problem? Reading his quotes, the first thing I thought was, “that man needs to slow down.” He’s driving to fast for the road conditions and he knows it.
Yes, we are responsible for our own actions. But statistics, real statistics not ones created from anecdotal information, show that driver error and negligence is a leading cause of crashes involving pedestrians. Road design and a lack of safe crossings is another major reason for crashes. Yes, pedestrian behavior is as well, but drivers that violate the rights that you think we shouldn’t be focusing on is a major reason for crashes.
If anything, crash data over-reports pedestrian behavior as a cause for a crash. Too often the police, but I’m sure not Sgt. Smith, report the cause of crash as told them by the only survivor. In the case of a crash involving a pedestrian/cyclist and driver, do I even need to mention who that survivor likely is?
All the Best,
PS – You did hear from many, many, pedestrians after your last piece because WE ARE ALL PEDESTRIANS.