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Seattle Drivers Cause Most Crashes, But Seattle Cops Increasingly Cite Peds

10:45 AM EDT on October 25, 2011

You've heard the complaints. People walk and use cell phones at the same time. They jaywalk. If you're on foot, you're a danger to yourself and drivers by virtue of your own carelessness.

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Sound like a lot of irrational scapegoating? That's because it is. A review of traffic crash data by Washington's former state transportation secretary Douglas MacDonald, using information from the Seattle Department of Transportation, shows the leading behaviors that actually harm people on the streets. As similar studies in other cities have found, there's just no basis for blaming the victim.

Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola points out that motorists are actually at fault in the vast majority of crashes involving pedestrians:

Of nearly 900 collisions between cars and pedestrians or cyclists reported last year, driver behavior was responsible for the collision three times out of four—and in two-thirds of those collisions, the driver simply failed to yield to the pedestrian or cyclist.

“So, with a myriad of steps that can be taken to improve safety, the most fundamental lie with getting the drivers to mind the rules,” MacDonald writes.

Unfortunately, the city appears to have been doing just the opposite: Cracking down on jaywalkers while letting bad driver behavior slide. In 2010, SPD issued just 197 tickets to drivers for failing to yield—a 50 percent decline from the previous year. At the same time, SPD issued 1,570 citations to pedestrians, an increase over 2009 of nearly 25 percent.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Human Transit examines how federal funding mechanisms favor new road construction over maintenance. Move Arkansas reports that Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola has pledged to be car-free the first full week of November, and he's asking his fellow citizens to join him. And Cap'n Transit cautions not to put much stock in traffic projections.

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