Pedestrian Deaths and Blaming the Victim

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 15, 2011

Hamilton suffered another pedestrian death yesterday, when a 78-year-old woman was driven over by a U-Haul while walking through a U-Haul business parking lot.

No one has been charged in her death. According to the Spectator article, however, Hamilton Police spokesperson Terri-Lynn Collings "warned pedestrians to be aware of vehicles when walking though parking lots".

This warning really gave me pause. As a driver, I always thought that I had a responsibility not to run over pedestrians.

Why was this particular warning given? Why not warn drivers to be aware of pedestrians when reversing? Why not warn drivers to be aware of pedestrians, and warn pedestrians to be aware of drivers?

Warnings issued to pedestrians only send a not-too-subtle message that if you get run over by a vehicle, it's your fault. Although these incidents are typically accidental, not homicidal, they still remind me of years gone by when, after a woman was sexually assaulted, women were warned not to wear "suggestive" clothing or to walk outdoors at night.

It's classic victim-blaming, and I don't think it's sensitive or appropriate.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By jason (registered) | Posted November 15, 2011 at 15:09:02

Pretty soon we won't be allowed to walk. Period. be aware of vehicles when walking on the sidewalk, crossing the road, riding a bike, walking through a parking lot, crossing at a stop sign, don't dress as you normally would but plaster yourself in neon lights, don't listen to music, don't be chatting, look both ways even if the light is green, look even if there is a 4-way stop, don't use your phone..... Let's just rip up the ultra-skinny sidewalks we have and be done with it already.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2011 at 15:10:14

Funny, I just tried to register a complaint via the Hamilton Police Service contact form and it leads to a URL not found error. Great public relations!

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted November 15, 2011 at 16:41:28

Although I think you raise a good point that we also need to send a message to caution drivers to keep an eye out for pedestrians, I don't think we need to be so critical of someone warning pedestrians to be careful of vehicles in parking lots.

I don't think saying so is some sign of blaming the victim. I'm not a psychology expert, but to me, it would seem natural to caution people based on who was hurt in the accident. Because the pedestrian was hurt (killed), I think the natural reaction is warn pedestrians to help prevent them from being hurt in the future.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 15, 2011 at 18:49:38 in reply to Comment 71266

the fact that someone was killed leads me to believe that we should be warning drivers to watch for pedestrians in parking lots. After all, once people park their cars they start walking to their destination. It's not like a pedestrian was hit on the QEW. I've long believed that parking lots represent the fact that even in Hamilton we could have 'naked streets' where everyone co-exists safely. In Hamilton it's usually safer to walk through a parking lot than stay on the 3 foot sidewalk next to transport trucks.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted November 15, 2011 at 20:31:05 in reply to Comment 71267

In Hamilton it's usually safer to walk through a parking lot than stay on the 3 foot sidewalk next to transport trucks.

Wrong again. As unsafe as you like to think the sidewalks are, it simply isn't true. The evidence/facts don't support your claim. In fact, the truth of the matter is exactly the opposite of what you claim. I'm not sure why you insist on repeating something which is clearly not true.

I'm sure this comment will be downvoted, but I'm not sure why. Facts are facts and I haven't said anything rude.

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2011-11-15 21:57:59

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 09:10:10 in reply to Comment 71268

Facts are pedestrians stepping into a crosswalk on a green light and getting run down - i've seen it a bunch of times along King at Locke, Queen etc.... and I'm just one person. I'm sure it's not only happening when I'm there. Those are the facts. I've almost been hit a bunch of times safely walking in my neighbourhood. Never in a parking lot.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2011 at 08:24:19 in reply to Comment 71268

Which evidence? Which Facts? Pronouncing somebody wrong without offering them up is pretty rude.

The "Naked Streets" concept, BTW, has been shown to work pretty well.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2011 at 06:48:22

Hang on.

From what I read, this took place in the parking lot.

The pedestrian 'cut across the parking lot'.

I'm sorry, but I'm a little tired of pedestrians being presented as saints. If we're going to rail against motorists for their crimes, and vilify cyclists for their 'selective observance of road-rules', then I think it's only fair that we have a thread of Bonehead Mistakes Pedestrians Have Been Known To Make.

Yours with all due respect,

A Driver, a Cyclist and a Pedestrian/

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-11-16 06:48:44

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By adrian (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 09:13:30 in reply to Comment 71273

Parking lots are for cars and for pedestrians. I feel silly expounding on this, but the idea is, on arrival, you park your car, get out, and walk to your destination. On departure, you walk to your car, get in, and drive away. Notice how you walk and drive during this experience?

As a driver, when I'm in a parking lot, I have always made the assumption that pedestrians have the right of way, and that it is my responsibility not to hit them. Were I to hit a pedestrian, I would assume that I would be in serious trouble. Are you telling me that if I run over a pedestrian in, say, the Fortino's parking lot, that the police would announce that the victim of the accident should have been more aware of my vehicle, and I would escape without so much as a demerit point on my license?

My point with this blog post is that, according to the Spectator article, "[t]here were no witnesses to the collision". So, until the police have reviewed the surveillance footage, no one actually knows what happened. We don't know if the U-Haul driver was driving recklessly, was texting at the time, was exhausted, failed to check his mirrors, etc. Similarly, we don't know if the elderly woman was texting at the time, was exhausted, experienced a medical issue that prevented her from being able to move out of the way, etc.

It follows that a warning issued to pedestrians only is unfair, insensitive, and sends a message that these accidents are the fault of pedestrians.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:27:54 in reply to Comment 71281

I'm trying and failing to imagine a scenario in which a moving vehicle reverses into a pedestrian in such a way that the driver is not at fault. Are we seriously to conclude that an elderly woman jumped out behind a truck so quickly that the driver had no chance to see her?

It's outrageous that we're even having this debate. At the risk of mystoneycreeking this comment thread, I'll go so far as to hold this up as evidence of the extent to which we'll twist ourselves inside-out to avoid the uncomfortable conclusion that automobiles are inherently the most dangerous agents on the road and that safety necessarily entails finding more effective ways to control what automobiles can do - especially in parking lots, which necessarily bring moving vehicles and moving pedestrians into direct contact.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 08:18:00 in reply to Comment 71273

You let me know when they come up with hover technology so pedestrians can float over the parking lot instead of walking across it, in the meantime I'd like to know what this pedestrian should have done differently to not get hit by a driver who's job it is to NOT hit pedestrians.

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By Russ (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 08:25:18

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 09:16:08 in reply to Comment 71276

How about use the sidewalk and go around the parking lot. The lot is for cars, the sidewalk for pedestrians. Are you able to understand this? It can't get any simplier.

How do you get from your car to the sidewalk or store?

I know some cars have automatic parallel parking but I didn't know they could park themselves in a parking lot!

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 08:39:44 in reply to Comment 71276

Wrong wrong wrong, the parking lot is for people going to and from the stores, how the hell are you supposed to use the sidewalk if you park in a spot in the middle of the lot? What you're saying makes no sense.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 09:12:00

Lol. I find this discussion somewhat funny. Last time I was in a parking lot people were walking to and from their car or surrounding stores etc.... Now we've got people honestly suggesting that people not walk in parking lots?? Must be some chamber of commerce reps on here. Ok, can we stay in our cars and do donuts then?

Please tell me how anyone is supposed to get into any of the stores at Centre Maul without walking across parking lots? Or are we now going to ban all non-car owners from shopping in certain areas of the city?

Comment edited by jason on 2011-11-16 09:13:26

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By rednic (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:39:11

While i no fan of victim blaming, and find it pretty amazing that the result of this incident is a warning to pedestrians, and no warning to drivers. The truth remains is that a Uhaul parking lot is a pretty dangerous spot for pedestrians, the majority of drivers there will be inexperienced with that size of vehicle and likely are stressed out and worrying about their move.

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By MikeyJ (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 12:48:13

A Driver who gets out of their car in a parking lot isn't some common pedestrian. Get your facts straight hippies.

They're Pre or Post-drive Motorists.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 13:53:36 in reply to Comment 71294

so, nobody without a car is allowed to use Centre Mall anymore? How about UHAUL? I rented a truck from there a year ago and arrived and left on bus. Should they have turned me away because I didn't drive there??

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By MikeyJ (registered) | Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:22:28 in reply to Comment 71297

I demand not to be taken seriously for my previous statement.

edit: I hope this doesn't mean people also upvoted to agree in earnest. The horror.

Comment edited by MikeyJ on 2011-11-17 10:24:32

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 13:20:10

comment from banned user deleted

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By DBC (registered) | Posted November 16, 2011 at 22:02:42

Well I got hit by a car that was cutting through the municipal lot at King and Bay (rather than waiting in queue on Bay with everyone else turning on to King St.) Of course the driver was only looking east on King for oncoming traffic when I ended up on the hood for foolishing walking westbound along the sidewalk.

I'll have to ask my employer if I can begin parking beside my desk. Walking in so many parts of this city is just downright unsafe. Forget the "war on the car", it's war on everyone who isn't in one.

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