Philadelphia has a serious issue with pedestrian safety. According to Philadelphia Magazine, an average of 1,700 car vs pedestrian collisions happen in The City of Brotherly Love each year.
A new campaign by the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities places the blame not just on distracted drivers, but also on distracted walkers — especially people using smartphones.
This isn’t exactly the first time advertisers have used people ensconced in bubble wrap as a visual joke about safety. But it’s well-executed and amusing, if a little overlong. (Why can’t anyone get a point across in 30-60 seconds anymore?) There are also video “bonus features” on the campaign YouTube channel.
The campaign has been the target of valid criticism that it focusses too much on pedestrians, and not on the drivers who can easily kill them.
Local transportation planner Victoria Harris has been one of the campaign’s most vocal critics on social media, arguing that the framing unhelpfully draws an equivalence of culpability between motorists and pedestrians.
“The campaign is unfortunate,” she wrote in an email, “It misses the real reason we have safety issues in traffic. Certainly everybody is responsible for paying attention to their surroundings. But a car can kill people. Drivers should be a million times more the focus of this campaign because a driver bears the responsibility for not killing people. Distraction is a problem, yes, but in Philadelphia more people are hit by aggressive drivers than distracted ones.”
I see where they’re coming from. I’m currently working with road safety partners to develop a campaign with similar goals, so both the campaign and the discussion around it provide valuable insights.
The campaign as a whole addresses both audiences, but given the power of video as an online medium, it’s understandable that pedestrians feel primarily targeted and victim-blamed.
What’s your take?