Tuesday, February 14 2017 @ 10:47 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
By Andrew Carpenter, City Lab, April 15, 2016
Being a pedestrian is, unfortunately, an increasingly dangerous proposition in many communities throughout the United States. A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that, just between 2014 and 2015, pedestrian deaths grew 10 percent.
In many regions, public safety campaigns are a go-to tactic to address the widespread issue of pedestrian safety. But the current, most prevalent approach of “fear appeals” – attempting to scare people into safer behaviors – has not been effective. Changing human behavior is no small task.
Routine tasks involved in commuting develop into automated habits, undermining the belief in many campaigns that road users make rational safety choices based on logic, information or fear. Such an approach tends to place the safety burden on the most vulnerable road users and remove it from drivers.
In the D.C. region, the Street Smart campaign [which they also use in the Baltimore area], for example, has come under fire in the past as being counterproductive for its use of fear-based messages directed at pedestrians and bicyclists.
In August 2013, the dynamic message board at the intersection, which had previously warned drivers of the dangerous merge, changed its message to something simple that pointed directly at drivers’ immediate actions: “Do not hit the car in front of you.” Though it seems laughable, accidents at that intersection actually dropped significantly in the following weeks.
Properly placed and engaging signals with direct, positive messaging can bring safety back to the forefront of people’s minds and have them actively consider their behavior. However, to change the roots of bad driving and long-standing, culturally ingrained habits, planners will have to shift the built environment itself in order to encourage the best possible actions from road users.