The Post Editorial Board last week called for the addition of "Distracted Walking" laws. They point to a small uptick in pedestrian fatalities and admit that
No one seems to know what accounts for the uptick, and the data say next to nothing about the increase, either.
But they aren't going to let a complete lack of understanding for the cause of a phenomenon stop them from proposing a change in law to counteract it. About the best they have is a study showing that over 1000 people were estimated to have been injured while walking and using a cellphone or some other electronic device.
This is not to say that distracted walking isn't an issue. I don't know if it is or isn't. I don't see it a lot when I bike, but then I don't commute along a route with many pedestrians. But it is odd that after an uptick in pedestrian fatalities - almost all of which involve cars, the Post immediately turns its glare onto the victims.
Especially when there are other possible explanations. Perhaps, there are more people walking and they're walking more miles, in which case more fatalities is expected. Maybe the economic downturn means that more people are walking - because they can't afford to drive, and they're doing so in non-walkable areas like the suburbs and so they're getting hit more. Perhaps it is just a one-year blip. Who knows?
So it's a pretty flimsy case to say that based on data we don't understand, we think that a law that no one has ever tried should be instituted to address a problem that we can't really prove exists.
I think education and outreach are probably better methods to use, and perhaps a call to understand the actual cause of the uptick.
BTW, not sure if I reported it before or not. But the 2010 data which was released the summer for "pedalcyclists" shows another drop in fatalties from 628 in 2009 to 618 in 2010. Cyclists still make up about 1.9% of traffic fatalities. Alcohol was a factor in 34% of fatal crashes, down from 39% the year before.