The First Lady Kills! Or Doesn’t…

Get Up – Get Moving – Get Hit
Officials say an increase in pedestrian deaths may be linked to Michelle Obama’s exercise program.

Mark Weaver at 630 WMAL:

The Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian deaths increased in the first half of 2010 and the First Lady’s program to get Americans to be more active could be partly responsible.

Governors Highway Safety Administration spokesman Jonathan Adkins told 630 WMAL that Michelle Obama is “trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more.  While that’s good, it also increases our exposure to risk.”

After four straight years of steady declines, pedestrian deaths were up during the first six months of 2010, the latest figures available to be studied.

Other factors include distracted drivers, distracted pedestrians and what Adkins calls “aggressive pedestrians.”

“People who are not crossing where they are supposed to.  They’re running in front of cars.  We’ve even had examples of pedestrians getting out on the interstate,” said Adkins.

Alcohol is also factor in increased pedestrian deaths.

“We’ve done a good job of getting people, after a night out of partying, to leave their keys behind.  But just because you are walking does not mean you are not at risk,” said Adkins.

Pedestrians are also increasingly distracted by iPods and smart phones.  It is not uncommon to see people crossing streets while fiddling with an electronic device and not watching where they are walking.  Hospital emergency rooms have reported an upsurge of people injured in a fall because they were distracted by electronics.

Scott McCabe at The Washington Examiner:

First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn’t know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths.
But the “get moving” movement, led by Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.

“There’s an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle],” said Harsha, who conceded to having no scientific evidence that the Let’s Move campaign has led to an increase in walkers and runners, or deaths.

“This is all speculative,” Harsha said. “Obviously, further study is needed.”

The first lady’s office did not respond immediately Wednesday to a request for comment.

Amanda Carey at Daily Caller:

Governors Highway Safety Association Director Barbara Harsha says she was misquoted in a story alleging she blames a rise in pedestrian deaths on Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity program, according to the Atlantic.“I was misquoted, said Harsha. “We in no way oppose Ms. Obama’s program.” She said she was trying to make a broader point about pedestrian awareness and safety. If Obama’s program is getting more people to walk, “they need to be aware of their surroundings and do so in a safe manner.”

Pedestrian deaths increased sharply during the first half of 2010, according to the GHSA.

Where to start?

Well, first off, there are no figures provided.  Via Dr. Google, I see “The Governors Highway Safety Association says in the report that 1,891 pedestrians were killed in the first six months of 2010, up from 1,884 in the same period in 2009 — a 0.4 percent increase. ”  Now, I don’t know the historical variation in these things, but I’d say offhand that this is a statistically insignificant swing.   Regardless, a variety of factors — alcohol, technology, and road design among them  – seem to be considered possible explanations for the slight reversal in trend.

Second, while I don’t pay much attention to the social campaigns of First Ladies, I don’t recall Mrs. Obama telling people that they should get drunk, strap on an iPod, and go wandering around the streets reading their BlackBerries.  She’s advising people to get some exercise, not to go wander around in traffic.  Yes, that’s technically a form of exercise.  There are others.

Third, anecdotally at least, I have indeed seen an increase in pedestrians distracted by electronic devices, whether it be texting while walking or grooving to whatever’s piping through their little white earbuds.  Then again, I’ve seen the same thing among people operating automobiles — and traffic deaths are down 8 percent during the same period.

Ed Morrissey:

An increase of 0.4% is, statistically speaking, noise.  It’s a random variation that occurs in smaller data sets.  Changes in weather conditions could account for the difference.

[…]

We have plenty of reasons to disagree with this administration and fight their policies.  These are not those.

Megan McArdle:

What to say about a statement by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association spokesman which seems to blame–I swear, I am not making this up--Michelle Obama’s national fitness campaign for an uptick in pedestrian deaths?

In order to make this sort of statement, I’d want some pretty ironclad evidence that, first of all, Michelle Obama’s exhortations were actually causing people to spend more time walking on our nation’s roads–a premise that this libertarian, for one, is pretty skeptical of.
I’d also want to see some evidence that they were walking on roads where, y’know, more people were dying.
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