There's an old cartoon showing a scoreboard above the Roman Colosseum. The scoreboard reads: Lions 765, Christians 0.
In the battle between automobiles and pedestrians, the score is pretty much the same. In Utah alone, an average of 40 pedestrians lose their lives and 1,000 are injured each year in confrontations with automobiles.
It's time for an attitude adjustment.
And last Monday, using a grant from the Utah Department of Health, law enforcement officials began creating one. They used a decoy officer to stop 44 cars during a four-hour span for failure to yield to pedestrians. Many motorists were not happy. Most were simply given information packets, but 16 received citations.
"Not paying attention" was the reason. But the list of distractions could fill a spiral notebook. Some drivers weren't paying attention to speeding laws, some were on cell phones or being distracted by other things in the car, some were simply playing cat-and-mouse with people's lives. And with school starting up in a few weeks, such scofflaw antics by people pushing tons of metal around at 30 mph should give parents pause. Nobody wants to think his or her child is a pedestrian accident just waiting to happen.
Pedestrians themselves, of course, could do more to minimize the risks. Jaywalkers, darting children, parents pursuing children into the street and people walking in high-speed traffic add to the risk. As the old slogan goes, pedestrians should "leave their blood at the Red Cross, not in the crosswalk."
As for drivers, blatant disregard for traffic signs and control devices along roadways can quickly lead to disaster.
Right now, officers are hoping education and enforcement will be enough to curtail the abuses. Some cities have been forced to go a step further and introduce thousands of speed bumps. Others are using cardboard cutouts of police officers near intersections to catch the eyes of distracted motorists and slow them down.
Utah's approach taking hard-earned cash from the wallets of motorists also has an effect.
In the end, Utah is not the only state trying to stay ahead of the death statistics. Nationwide, about 5,000 people are killed and another 64,000 badly injured in pedestrian accidents each year. Between 1975 and 2005, 180,000 pedestrians were killed by automobiles in the United States. And a pedestrian is injured every eight minutes.
That's not only unacceptable, it's tragic.
We urge drivers to rethink the way they drive and urge law enforcement to keep the pressure on those who toy with the lives of those who walk in a world of automobiles.