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Posted by on Feb 25, 2013 in General, Safety | 8 comments

FDOT Lip Service

I was going to write about the lip service that our FDOT Secretary, Anath Prasad, has been dishing out, but someone beat me to it. She lives in Cleveland, but she seems to know how things work here.

If you haven’t heard, the FDOT paid $174,500 of the taxpayer’s money to have Alert Today Alive Tomorrow painted on a NASCAR car involved in a minor race at Daytona. In fact, that race would have gone pretty much unnoticed had it not been for a horrific crash which sent several spectators, but none and one of the drivers, to the hospital.

I don’t know which committee chose that slogan, but it is about as generic as it gets. This is supposed to apply to pedestrian safety, but it could apply to anything.

credit: Mike Vasalinda

credit: Mike Vasalinda

I have little to add, but here are some recent quotes about or from Mister Prasad which I am passing along without comment:

“Pedestrian safety is my highest priority,” FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said in a statement announcing the commitment.

“Florida’s Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad was ticketed on a Tallahassee for doing 44 in a 35.  A short time later, DOT commenced a study of road conditions and decided to raise the speed limit to 45. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Prasad says he wasn’t the only one who complained.” . . . “The city complained, saying the higher limit went against their efforts to create a walkable environment. Prasad prevailed the road is now posted at 45.”

Florida has been doing very good. Our highways are the safest in their history. (In 2009, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said traffic deaths in Florida dropped to a historic low. The state recorded 2,563 traffic fatalities in 2009, compared with 3,533 in 2005.)

We’re committed to pedestrian safety. The numbers are trending downward. We recognize that one accident and one life taken is one too many. We’ve started a thorough review of our policies. We’re going to make sure any changes we need to make continue to make our roads safer for pedestrians, for people in automobiles and for bicyclists.  from a Q and A column in the Sun Sentinel, 6/13/2011

That last one prompted an excellent rant that starts out, “Mr. Secretary, Florida has NOT been doing ‘very good’ on bicycle/pedestrian safety. “

8 Comments

  1. “Prasad was ticketed on a Tallahassee for doing 44 in a 35. A short time later, DOT commenced a study of road conditions and decided to raise the speed limit to 45.”

    So now Prasad will do 55 on his new 45mph limit road, just like every other motorist does. Hopefully the police will catch him again.

  2. Apparently, no one at the FDOT could recognize the irony of putting a pedestrian safety message on the back of a speeding car.

  3. It takes a lot to turn the Titanic. In the Secretary’s defense, he has put an excellent person—Billy Hattaway— in charge of pedestrian and bike safety issues. Billy is a certified CyclingSavvy instructor and a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. We couldn’t ask for a better ally. If anyone will do right by us, he will. But we can’t expect results overnight.

  4. I fail to see how the slogan relates to pedestrian safety at all – it seems more likely to read that drivers should stay alert to save their own lives (and pedestrians are on their own).

  5. I can’t say I disagree with the criticism of putting the ped safety message on a race car – but it’s also creating publicity and awareness, which is kind of the point. I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised by Secretary Prasad’s work so far at FDOT. He’s been shuffling things up in an agency that has been pretty insular for decades and quietly getting things done within an administration and political climate that’s incredibly difficult to work within.

    Full disclosure, I am part of a statewide coalition representing transit that Billy Hattaway is leading to address ped safety (it’s a diverse group with people from law enforcement, DMV, public health, etc). Ped safety has become a priority at FDOT and they’ve put a lot of effort and resources behind making some changes. From an agency that tends to favor engineering solutions to education, this campaign is about creating awareness and education, something many of us have been trying very hard to make happen.

    I have to commend folks like Keri, Mighk, and Lisa for leading the charge on the education and awareness front. It was Keri that first got me thinking about civility for example and Cycling Savvy has some real legs. I’m a founding member of the current incarnation of FBA and while change is slow, things ARE in fact changing.

    It’s not necessarily my choice in terms of a message, but it works – yes, it can apply to many things, but at the heart of the matter for everyone when it comes to transportation is to be alert – whether we’re driving a car, a bicycle, or walking. It’s geared to car drivers as much as anyone else, which frankly, needed to be done. I’ve sat in many ‘blame the victim’ focus groups and forums where people wring their hands about how peds and cyclists don’t follow the rules of the roads that it’s nice to see this change in emphasis. Even if it is on a NASCAR vehicle.

  6. I agree the slogan could be applied to any activity in which failure to be alert to potential risks (and to take appropriate care to minimize those risks) can result in severe injury; I just heard the other day about someone who died when they tripped and fell stepping out of their bathtub. Still, the slogan does apply to use of the roads by pedestrians and cyclists.

    Majority of fatal- and severe-injury crashes with pedestrian and cyclist casualties involve some failure of alertness on the part of one or more crash participants. Alertness failures of crash participants tend to fall into two categories: (1) simple failure to maintain alertness to road or traffic conditions that could have been avoided with little difficulty; (2) failure to be alert to some specific condition with risk potential, even though the road user was paying attention to their task, that was developing so rapidly by the time the road user recognized the hazard (if they did recognize it) that they were unable to take effective evasive action.

    Class 1 failures can be avoided by staying “alert”–concentrating on use of the road, avoiding or minimizing distractions (watching one of their videos yesterday, I noticed AAA recommends that drivers not even eat in the car).

    Avoiding class 2 failures that contribute to crashes requires not just general alertness, but the ability to recognize potentially hazardous conditions and movements; one can’t be alert to a sketchy situation if one doesn’t recognize the potential crash scenario in the first place.

    The campaign slogan works well for class 1 failure scenarios–maintain your concentration, don’t be distracted. Application to class 2 failure scenarios is less obvious, as general alertness is not enough, yet most of us who use roads are confident we can recognize and satisfactorily manage road risks that may arise (“Lake Wobegon effect”).

    Because safety slogans are ordinarily reminders (to do something the target audience already knows how to do), it’s difficult to come up with a short, catchy, comprehensive slogan that would also express the need for more specific types of alertness (at least, I can’t think of one). To do the latter I think you need specific messages.

    • Great comment, Dwight! Thanks for that description of class 1 and 2 failures. I may be borrowing that in the near future. :-)

    • Recognizing a problem is not only a function of understanding the potential of the problem occurring, but also having an environment conducive to good perception. An unlit, high-speed road at night makes it difficult for a pedestrian to judge the speed of approaching vehicles, as well as making it difficult for drivers to see pedestrians. So if the pedestrian misjudges the gap, the driver is less able to compensate.

      The other problem is the “but I AM alert!” response we could expect from John Q. Motorist. I prefer to give people specifics. Look for THIS, and if you see it, do THIS.

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