LaHood warns pedestrians to be careful out there
Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
Ah, summertime, when the living is easy.
And with Congress in recess mode, things are so slow in Washington that federal agencies struggle to justify their existence.
For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week issued a consumer advisory warning pedestrians to walk with care and use crosswalks.
We should walk with care and use crosswalks? Really?
"Roadway safety is a two-way street that requires effort on the part of motorists and pedestrians alike," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. "Whether you choose to travel by foot or car, it's important to share the roads and stay alert."
You couldn't make this stuff up.
The well-intentioned, thoughtful advisory was the Department of Transportation's sly way of reporting that pedestrian fatalities rose by 4 percent in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.
Sgt. Phil Esterhaus
But it sounded vaguely reminiscent of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on TV's old "Hill Street Blues" series exhorting police officers with "Let's be careful out there."
NHTSA has proposed many rules dictating how automakers must design and build autos to protect pedestrians.
Thanks to NHTSA, automakers have been improving rear-view visibility to protect children, eliminating hood ornaments that can impale pedestrians and putting warning sounds on electric vehicles to alert the visually impaired.
Look, there's no need for a national campaign to tell Americans they need to stay out of the way of cars and trucks. That's something we learn at a very young age.
There are two likely reasons for the increase in pedestrian fatalities: More people are outside, walking for exercise, which is a good thing. And, thanks to smartphones, there are more dumb, distracted pedestrians texting one another as they wander around in a fog.
I wonder what Sgt. Esterhaus would say about that.
You can reach Edward Lapham at email@example.com.