Pedestrian-shaming campaigns have got to stop

A Oct 28, 2016

Halloween is the perfect time to make people afraid of the dark. Maybe that’s why New York City’s Department of Transportation is employing spooky tactics to scare pedestrians by telling New Yorkers that walking at night is dangerous.

A campaign that launched today is the newest misguided attempt to prevent traffic deaths by shaming pedestrians—not by addressing the root causes of our country’s frightening epidemic: too many drivers using increasingly inadequate infrastructure.

Every year, cities see a spike in traffic deaths when it gets dark earlier, so NYC’s DOT has planned a week of awareness pegged to the end of Daylight Saving Time, telling people they should be more careful after the sun goes down. To get the word out, “street teams” are handing out flyers at dangerous intersections around New York City, buses and billboards will host ads, and radio spots will air during the evening commute. All at a cost of about $1.5 million.

The darkness-is-dangerous messaging is the latest in the particularly gory “Your Choices Matter” campaign rolled out by the city’s Vision Zero initiative, with the goal to eliminate traffic fatalities. This year has seen an increase in traffic deaths compared to 2015.

But the problem with this kind of messaging—and any kind of “awareness” campaign when it comes to traffic safety—is that it always blames pedestrians for engaging in some kind of risky behavior. In this case, it’s daring to venture out after dark. There have been plenty of other pedestrian-shaming campaigns—starting with the invention of the term jaywalking—which target walkers for their choice of clothing, smartphone use, or simply not “paying attention.”

These campaigns don’t address the real problem: More drivers are driving more cars than ever through poorly designed city streets…..




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