Attitudes

Something about the way American society reacts to drivers killing pedestrians strikes me as very old-fashioned.

Streets Blog–which admittedly has an obvious agenda but does reach for some neutrality when laying the basis for its advocacy–has an editorial up right now, detailing the year in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, resulting from being struck by a driver of a car, in New York city. It’s a lot of people, including three children killed by drivers while the children were on the sidewalk.

No charges filed in most cases of a driver striking or killing a person.

This strikes me as Victorian helplessness in the face of a modern world. A feeling that our gentle world must yield to the wonders of the future and if our children suffer, at least it isn’t all of them. Woe this brave new world which we cannot control, with such a cost to its convenience and might.

Because charging drivers who kill pedestrians is an easy thing to control. It’s simply a choice and priority.

Because designing dense urban environments to give priority to the most vulnerable users is possible, even proven effective and not terribly disruptive.

Over my lifetime, we stopped wringing our hands and feigning helplessness in the face of drunk driving. We changed people’s attitudes toward seat belts (I grew up with an Aunt who refused them, insisting it was safe to be thrown free of a car in a collision), car seats, speed limits.

Yet we throw up our hands in despair and impotence when drivers injure and kill people–pedestrians, cyclists–when simple steps could protect them. When simple prosecutions could hold them responsible. When simply teaching and expecting drivers to feel less entitled and making them accountable for their mistakes would help.

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