Distracted Crossing – Heads up, devices down when crossing a road.
Pedestrian safety is the shared responsibility of both the driver and pedestrian. While drivers have an onus to give pedestrians the right of way, individuals still need to be aware of their surroundings. My concern lies with technology driven pedestrians crossing an intersection while engrossed in their electronic devices. Instead of stopping to look both ways and making eye contact with the driver before crossing a street, they stare right into their device without checking, thereby choosing to trust that the driver will see them.
There are reasons why pedestrians should not put their faith onto drivers. For example, there are circumstances when the driver is not in control of their vehicle, such as black ice, extreme weather conditions, or when the sun is in their eyes. Of course, there is the problem of bad drivers who lack experience and/or those who illegally use electronics while driving. In these cases, drivers should receive fines for distracted driving as well as demerits for serious offences.
I am not blaming pedestrians for accidents that occur when they have the right of way. I am stating who has the right of way is a moot point after a collision, as it will not mitigate the damage already done. Chances are the car will survive the accident while the pedestrian will likely be seriously hurt or fatally injured. For this reason, I would like to raise awareness about pedestrian safety by taking proactive measures to decrease accidents.
I plan to speak with police officials to address the increase of pedestrian collisions. Every year, on average, there are 500 collisions between cars and pedestrians in Calgary. Distracted behaviour, both on the part of driver and pedestrian, plays a role in these accidents. In Toronto, police already have targeted distracted pedestrians at intersections. Ottawa faces a similar issue as distracted walking has become the new safety issue. The police in Vancouver encourage all pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to take some measure of responsibility and ICBC has a new campaign to decrease pedestrian involved crashes. Recent studies conducted by the University of Alabama, Ohio University and an observational study in Seattle suggest that distracted activity amongst pedestrians increases the risk of pedestrian injury.
In the New Year, I would like to research and explore possible campaigns on the shared responsibility of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. This will be a part of the upcoming Calgary Pedestrian Strategy, which is a multi-pronged approach that examines current driving law, technology of crosswalks, and a simple heads up, devices down, distracted crossing awareness program. I think we can all agree that the end goal is to reduce pedestrian and vehicle collisions.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.