Exercise, iPods and Michelle Obama Blamed For Increase In Pedestrian Deaths

michelle obama photograph

Is the increase in pedestrian deaths her fault? Image credit: Department of defence

The Governors Highway Safety Association, "The States' Voice on Highway Safety" has issued a new report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, (PDF Here) that some, like the Washington Examiner, use to tie an increase in pedestrian deaths to Michelle Obama:

First lady Michelle Obama's campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.


from study Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State

The increase in pedestrian deaths is negligible, but reverses a long term trend. According to the Examiner:

The "get moving" movement, led by Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.

"There's an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle]," said Harsha, who conceded to having no scientific evidence that the Let's Move campaign has led to an increase in walkers and runners, or deaths. "This is all speculative," Harsha said. "Obviously, further study is needed."

UPDATE: Harsha denies saying this to the Examiner. According to Grist:
In fact, Harsha tells us, she didn't tell the Examiner that at all. "It's ridiculous," she says. According to Harsha, the First Lady's fitness campaign never even came up in her discussion with [reporter Scott] McCabe. "Absolutely not," she says, adding that she actually supports the "Let's Move" campaign.


No, its Steve Jobs Fault!!! Image credit Acaben

In fact, Michelle Obama is not mentioned in the report or the press release, but she might have well been. Steve Jobs should have been up there too, since the whole report and press release seem to do little more than blame the pedestrian, exercise and ipods for the increase. Cars? no problem.

According to the press release from the GHSA :

A growing national focus on walkable communities and "get moving" health and fitness efforts may cause pedestrian exposure, and thus risk, to increase.

GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr. notes, "Nationally, pedestrian fatalities account for about 12 percent of overall traffic deaths, a small but significant portion. Given that we have made so much progress in this area, GHSA is concerned to see this reversal. One factor may be the increased distractions for both pedestrians and drivers. Anyone who travels in a busy city has seen countless pedestrians engrossed in conversation or listening to music while crossing a busy street. Just as drivers need to focus on driving safely, pedestrians need to focus on walking safely - without distractions."

Then there is that whole new trend, the aggressive pedestrian, out to get those drivers:

"It is definitely a concern. Looking at our data, we are seeing pedestrians crossing mid-block instead of at crosswalks, pedestrians walking in the roadway, and even some walking in the travel lanes of the interstate. We are familiar with aggressive drivers; we now have aggressive pedestrians."

The report is worse, a collection of anecdotes from states that in almost all cases, blame the victim, the pedestrian, primarily for wearing headphones or exercising. From Kansas:

"Anecdotally we see more "near" ped incidents due to ped distractions, but at this point we haven't seen it in the reports on the fatals."


"Though there is no solid data to indicate how large the scope of the problem is, there have been isolated cases to show that distracted pedestrians are becoming an issue...particularly those who walk or run for exercise and may be using headphones while listening to music."

Delaware is frustrated at those pesky pedestrians:

It's difficult "to structure enforcement programs when pedestrians and not motorists are the primary offenders."

Only in Nevada do they find anecdotes that blames a driver for talking on her cellphone and hitting a five-year-old, or this gem:

a "young man, 12 years old, who was crossing at a signalized intersection; he waited for his light and as he crossed the street to pick up his younger sibling at the elementary school he was hit by a truck driver who reported to law enforcement 'yes I saw the boy, but I thought he'd stop for me.'"

Otherwise, those poor drivers, who are concentrating on the road and following the rules, never texting, driving drunk, they are just victims of crazy, intoxicated, unruly and aggressive pedestrians, a menace that must be stopped. Really.

Read it and weep at GHSA

Exercise, iPods and Michelle Obama Blamed For Increase In Pedestrian Deaths
The Governors Highway Safety Association, "The States' Voice on Highway Safety" has issued a new report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, (PDF Here) that some,