The impressions that we form about other road users are often made impulsively. One dangerous interaction with a pedestrian can forever colour the way we perceive the dangerous around us, while continual news coverage on the clashes between drivers and pedestrians can further cement impressions we've made on our own or that we've gotten from others. But in the cold light of fact, just how dangerous are pedestrians?
In an article for The Toronto Star, Ben Spurr suggests that there are several misconceptions at play in the way we talk about pedestrians and traffic collisions, and that these might be getting in the way of making the roads safer for everyone.
According to Jess Spieker, spokesperson for Friends and Families for Safe Streets who Spurr interviewed for his piece, "Every day wasted by our political leaders on debating or spreading misinformation about the causes of road violence is a distraction from the action we take, which is building safe, complete streets."
Spurr singled out five common misconceptions that drivers have about pedestrians, including that jaywalking is always an illegal activity and that pedestrians are usually to blame if they get injured. Spurr doesn't disprove these misconceptions with opinions, but with facts. Because, while dangerous interactions with pedestrians can and do occur, they're not necessarily as common or as straightforward as we may think.
One of the most interesting misconceptions that Spurr highlights is the notion that smartphones are one of the main causes of pedestrian injuries.
"Of more than 1,800 serious or fatal pedestrian collisions between 2007 and 2018 for which police recorded the condition of the victim, a little more than 20 per cent were described as "inattentive." That figure includes different forms of distraction, and isn't specific to phone use."
This isn't to say that pedestrians never act dangerously, because they do. We all act dangerously on the road from time to time, and maybe more often then we'd like admit. But it's important to recognize that, as drivers, pedestrians are not the villains. We are all sharing the road together, all trying to get where we need to go as safely as possible. And that means that we all have an equal share in ensuring that the roadways are as safe as they can be.
For the other myths on Spurr's list, check out the original article on The Toronto Star.