Victim Blaming: When Motorists Run Over Pedestrians and Cyclists

Victim Blaming: When Motorists Run Over Pedestrians and Cyclists

Pedestrians and cyclists who are struck by motor vehicles are often blamed for their own injuries or death, while the vehicle’s driver faces minor consequences.

Blaming Injured Victims

When a motorist injures or kills people who are walking or biking, the victims are often blamed for putting themselves in a dangerous situation. While the driver who struck the pedestrian or cyclist is often speeding, distracted, or impaired by alcohol or drugs, he/she is often not the focus of attention for the accident. In many cases, unless the driver of a motor vehicle is intoxicated or flees the scene of the accident, he/she faces minor penalties for causing injuries or death to a pedestrian or bicyclist.

In December 2013, a Chicago chef was struck by a motor vehicle driver while he was biking in Douglas Park. Although the driver had twice the legal blood-alcohol count in his system, he was sentenced to only 100 days in jail for the incident. During the trial, the judge said that he was issuing a lighter sentence, because the cyclist was dressed in dark clothing at the time of the accident, so the driver likely did not see him.

In 2016, four Chicago bicyclists were killed by motor vehicles within a period of two months in various parts of the city. During the time of the accidents, studies showed that Chicago bike commuting increased by 143 percent, and motor vehicle/bicycle crashes rose by 27 percent, accounting for more than 1,600 collisions that resulted in serious injuries and fatalities.

As pedestrian traffic increases and the use of bicycles in urban areas becomes more frequent, motor vehicle drivers must become more aware of their surroundings. People walking along sidewalks, biking to work, or delivering packages for a bicycle courier service should not be blamed if they are struck and injured by a motor vehicle. Although drivers often complain about distracted shoppers, pedestrians on cell phones, and cyclists who disobey traffic laws, cars pose much greater risks of severe injury and death. Reckless drivers who run red lights and stop signs and impaired drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can cause much more damage than pedestrians and cyclists. Drivers who operate any type of motor vehicle that can easily kill people should exercise an increased level of responsibility.