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victims are to blame

That headline on PhillyVoice.com caught our attention earlier today. At first, we wondered if it was simply click bait. But then we read the story, and the headline was quite fitting for the tone. (Here is a link to the article.)

According to the article, “Victims,” — in this case pedestrians — “are to blame” for their own deaths. This is not a groundbreaking idea. It’s a classic, even traditional windshield view of traffic safety that’s been taken up by the media for a long, long time: That victims of car pedestrian crashes lack common sense.

Try to make that argument to the families of victims.

But note this: The article was well-written. The reporter did his homework. He conducted relevant interviews and dug up the data. We, therefore, find it a bit odd that the conclusion reached is that the victims — those who can no longer speak for themselves — are to blame for traffic crashes. Especially when real solutions could have easily been drawn from at least one example brought up in the article.

The Duck Boat

duck-logo

We’ll use one example found within to show what’s wrong here. The story notes that the attorney for a victim who was killed by a Ride the Ducks driver in the spring claims that there is a “massive blind spot” on the right side of the duck boat vehicle.

When Bicycle Coalition Communications Manager Randy LoBasso wrote of this incident in May, he noted that when we shift the conversation to what the dead could have done differently, we miss what we need to change to make sure these sorts of incidents aren’t repeated:

In other words, there’s a private company operating World War II-era land- and sea-mobiles that likely do not give the driver a full view of what’s in front of them as they chauffeur kazoo-tooting tourists around our city’s streets, but the focus of the conversation is about the distracted pedestrian instead of what we can do about making our streets safer for all users.

Maybe it’s time to have a conversation about, you know, whether gigantic sea vessels should be operating in the some of the most densely populated areas of our city. Or, better yet, what about improving our infrastructure in ways that prevent tragedies like these from taking place?

The truth is, yes, human beings make mistakes, whether they are behind the wheel, on their bike or traveling on foot. But the penalty for making a mistake should not be death. Would an improved mirror system be a way to minimize the chances of a person being crushed by these enormous machines?

Crash Not Accident

crash-header

A “tragic accident” was the description that a Philadelphia Police investigator gave for the Duck Boat tragedy; inevitable accidents, the “collateral damage” of road violence. The media uses the term accident and other word choices; such as struck by a car vs struck by a driver, as a way to describe car crashes in the passive voice.  Accidents will happen, but crashes can be mitigated or prevented. In the PhillyVoice story, we read that Elizabeth Karnicki, a victim of traffic violence, “kept walking – right into the duck boat. The impact crushed her head and body.”

One does not die when they walk into a boat. They die when the driver of the boat crashes into them.

Vision Zero

VISION ZERO FOR PHILADELPHIA

Vision Zero sets a goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries on our roadways  The City is constantly working on safety improvements to the road network. But achieving a goal to reduce traffic deaths towards zero will require a comprehensive programming approach that engages diverse partners and utilizes a wide range of education, enforcement and engineering strategies.

But, fortunately, Philadelphia is making Vision Zero a priority. Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney has promised to focus on Vision Zero and Councilwoman Cindy Bass has introduced legislation to fund traffic calming improvements. On December 3rd The Bicycle Coalition and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital will be hosting a one day Vision Zero Philadelphia Conference that will bring in experts from around the country. We encourage the public at-large to attend this important conference to learn more about the complexity of traffic violence and its contributing factors.

John Boyle

Author

John has been a commuting cyclist for more than 20 years. In 1994 he began working as a volunteer for the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley after attending a volunteer night, and later served as a board member in 1997-98. In 1999 John left Philadelphia for Charlottesville, VA, where he helped establish the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation (ACCT), a bicycle and walking advocacy group.

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