Walk Softly and Carry a Big Gun
by Jan Baughman

As you walk to your local bathhouse or to the corner liquor store for a pack of cigarettes, you may ponder the health risks that confront you. But there is an insidious danger you've probably not considered.

"This is a major public health crisis", quoted Hank Dittmar to the New York Times. Aids? Lung Cancer? No - walking. According to Mr. Dittmar, who is the executive director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, the risk of a pedestrian being run over and killed is twice that of the homicide risk from being shot by a stranger. It was not clear from the report whether the armed strangers are generally on foot themselves, thus constituting a new category of dangerous pedestrians. If you pedecommute in New York City, your death risk is three times that of your death risk from guns.

Florida was reported to be home to three of the top six most dangerous cities for walking. The report did not say whether the pedestrian fatalities occurred primarily in British tourists, nor did it cite the average age of the lethal motorist. When one thinks of a promenade in Florida, it usually takes place on the beach. Perhaps it is simply that life guard dune buggies are a major public health hazard.

Nonetheless, a whopping 6,000 pedestrians are killed each year in the United States -- good enough reason to justify driving, or locking yourself in the house with a gun. Certainly reason enough to enact legislation for a mandatory pedestrian helmet law. If you get a fund-raising call from a pedestrian-advocacy group, think twice about contributing. I have a feeling that somewhere behind all this lies the National Rifle Association and the American Automobile Association.

Here is a free piece of advice that may save your life: Look both ways before you cross.

Published April 16, 1997
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