A Pedestrian Is Killed, So Let’s Ticket — Pedestrians?

Earlier this week, Brad posted a piece about a recent pedestrian death pedestrian critically injured by an SUV on 14th Street, asking "Is Death an Appropriate Penalty for Jaywalking?" in which he included some fascinating historical information about how jaywalkers have been demonized over the years.

382366278_226730477c_300x199.jpgPhoto by Poppyseed Bandits via Flickr.

In Savannah, that type of stigmatization, and the ineffective targeting of pedestrians by law enforcement, is apparently going strong. This morning, Sustainable Savannah has a post about a police crackdown on pedestrians in that city — a crackdown that comes in the wake of a an incident in which a visitor to the city was killed while apparently crossing the street legally. Which raises this question:

Why not go after drivers?

Over the last several days I’ve been hearing chatter via Twitter and other channels about pedestrians being fined for jaywalking. This WTOC story indicates some motorists are being cited, too. But the emphasis seems to be on pedestrians.

Is this an effective way to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths? According to the authors of Kansas City’s Walkability Plan,
who examined best practices in enforcement, jaywalking crackdowns are
not an effective strategy for promoting pedestrian safety:

"Jaywalking is disorderly in appearance and can disrupt traffic, but it is not a big factor in pedestrian death and injury. The Seattle Police Department vigorously enforced the anti-jaywalking laws
in that city for 50 years, issuing more than 500,000 citations. Seattle’s pedestrian crash experience was little different from the rest of the USA where little or no attention was paid to this problem."

Other noteworthy posts from around the Streetsblog Network: Carfree USA quotes veteran California pol Willie Brown blaming the car lobby for the state’s budget crisis. Bike Portland has another round of reading recommendations from its BikePortland Bookstore. And from the intrepid MinusCar Project in Sioux Falls, SD, a post on the irritation of riding in a city where your bike doesn’t trigger the traffic lights.

  • Legally, in theory, pedestrians are obligated to obey the law, no ifs ands or buts. In practice, in NYC, it’s every street user for himself, with the result that lawbreaking peds wrongly inconvenience motorists and bikers. I often find myself hanging back at a red light while other peds cross illegally (and unethically) causing motorists or the occasional biker to slam on their brakes. However, if there are no cars coming, I do cross against the red, as do most people here. The most law-abiding peds I’ve ever seen are in Munich, where people will wait for the light to go green even if the street is empty of cars or bikes. The benefit of living in a such a society where everyone is a stickler for the rules is that the streets there are, overall, much safer to walk in, the atmosphere is more civil, and the experience of being on the street is less threatening and fatiguing.

  • Sarah- In Sacramento, the police here have started crosswalk stings to ticket drivers that disobey the California yield to pedestrians law. A recent sting fined 26 drivers more than $160 each: http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/crime/archives/021618.html

    Hopefully this continues and spreads to other cities as well.

  • al oof

    mark, what are the statistics on pedestrian death in munich? is it significantly different than other cities?

  • I’m a little handicapped by my lack of German language skills. But Germany as a whole had 10.9 pedestrian road fatalities per million population in 2005, according to this story. In NYC, we kill about 250 peds per year in a population of 8 million, which would be about 31 per million. So it’s approximately three times more dangerous to be a ped on the street in NYC than in Germany. Anecdotally and subjectively, I can say I’ve always felt safer in European cities, though it varies from place to place. Rome feels as dangerous to me as NY, while car-free Venice feels like the safest place in the world.

  • Long ago we said “We should remind Metro that in our society the penalty for jaywalking is not death.”

    If you look at the way people in particular at-grade rail advocates demonize those hit by idiotic street-level trains in LA you’d think it were.

  • Scott Price

    Yes, Legally Pedestrians must obey traffic laws but I believe this topic has had the same result since when pedestrians cross paths with Horse drawn carriages and such. The problem with this debate is that even tho we make crosswalks and traffic signs to allow crossing pedestrian traffic it does not guarantee that in the right set of circumstances that even when legally crossing a street you can get hurt or killed. The whole thought process about Road Design and Safety is lacking and truthfully backwards with the exception of Truman and Veterans Parkway (away from populated areas and elevated!). Savannah like many other Cities has seen these sorts of Traffic accidents only increase. Barricades (for Multi-Lane Ave/Blvd), Lighting, Reduction in Distractions (ie Signs) and Road Design (rumble strips spaced every 10th of mile or less based on Population density) would definitely curb many accidents. My problem with this whole topic there is more Safety factored in when designing an Interstate than Speed Regulation and Crosswalks of Cities and how many real speeding tickets could Officers be issuing. Interstates have Rumble Strips in the breakdown area, Concrete Dividers and better lighting. It should be apparent that these Safety rules are set by the each State with the goal of protecting Commercial Truckers and POV’s. It is the Cities and the bloated bureaucracy that can make the difference in the City. This will only happen when everyone agrees that more should be done to stop accidents. Redesigning Cars would help as well. Protecting life should be paramount. Using the suggestions I have mentioned will reduce accidents. I could add more. The reason I’m chiming in is

    1. I saw my best friend get hit by a car in the 70’s (he survived).
    2. My brother was killed in Savannah Nov 09 crossing Abercorn St.

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