Heads Up, NYC DOT: Walking While Listening to Music Is Still Not Illegal

The new NYC DOT “Heads Up” PSA featuring New York Knicks point guard Baron Davis may get points for star power, but when it comes to messaging, it’s a brick.

The spot features a dribbling Davis tossing a basketball at a texting pedestrian, directing a salmoning cyclist to reverse course and shouting at a motorist for skidding into a crowded crosswalk.

Taking the ad at face value, a viewer would think that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are equally responsible for city traffic collisions. But DOT’s own statistics indicate that driver actions are the primary cause in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian crashes. Moreover, more pedestrians are struck by drivers while crossing with a traffic signal than while walking against a light.

Data on collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians have been made available only recently, but according to NYPD reports compiled by DOT, police responded to 27 bike-ped collisions citywide in the last three months of 2011, with crashes resulting in 26 injuries. During the same period, 754 car-bike collisions injured 755 cyclists and killed three. The most recent figures from the state DMV show that more than 2,600 city pedestrians are injured by motorists in a typical three-month period, and 50 are killed. A public service campaign targeting the actual causes of traffic crashes would focus almost exclusively on motorist behavior.

Finally, of the three street users admonished by Davis, only the driver and the cyclist are violating traffic laws. By (again) attaching its “Know the Code, Share the Road” slogan to images of an earbud-wearing or texting pedestrian, DOT is sending the message that people are responsible for their own injuries and deaths if they are struck by drivers as they cross the street while using an electronic device — an act that is completely legal in New York State.

This is the type of street safety PSA that Carl Kruger would love.