MPR News has a great article about a MnDOT safety campaign aimed at improving conditions for pedestrians:
October is the most dangerous month for pedestrians. The days are shorter, the nights longer, and drivers have a harder time seeing pedestrians.
With that in mind, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials will be out waving signs in busy intersections today to encourage drivers and pedestrians to watch out for each other.
Public safety officials are concerned that the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries have remained consistent in recent years, while the number of fatal vehicle crashes has declined.
“I think it’s just a little bit harder of a nut to crack,” said Sue Groth, the state’s traffic engineer.
Crossing Park Ave.
“The laws are harder to enforce, and it involves both motorist and pedestrian behavior,” Groth said. “A lot of this could be solved just with pedestrians and motorists looking for each other, making eye contact and following the laws.”
Groth said many motorists don’t yield to pedestrians who are in the crosswalk, and many pedestrians either don’t pay attention or cross the street against the light or away from the crosswalk.
The numbers bear that out. Because motorists and pedestrians are equally at fault, transportation officials are targeting both groups with the safety campaign.
I love this MnDOT safety campaign, and I think efforts to modify behavior are a critical step towards improving safety conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. However, one thing the MPR article didn’t pick up on, but the MnDOT press release made pretty clear, is the increasingly important role of technology. The press release contained a more complete quote from Groth:
“This is an important area to focus on because pedestrians are more vulnerable than motorists who are protected by the vehicle, seatbelts and air bags during a crash.”
As much as engineers are continuously making improvements to roadways, we’re also pretty sure that the lion’s share of the credit for reducing motorist fatalities belongs to the automobiles themselves. Still, campaigns to raise awareness and modify behavior are important.