Highway safety spokesperson blames pedestrian deaths on Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign?

Amanda Carey Contributor
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UPDATE: Scott McCabe, Reporter for the Washington Examiner, pointed out in an email to The Daily Caller that the GHSA brought up Michelle Obama in a story pitch for their report about pedestrian deaths.

Their pitch included a bullet point that read “One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We’ve been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to “get moving” programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased.”

Additionally, another GHSA spokesperson mentioned Michelle Obama by name this morning during an interview with a local radio station. 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,” said GHSA’s Jonathan Adkins.

UPDATE: 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.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Harsha said that while there are not yet definitive answers as to why there were more pedestrian deaths in 2010 than 2009, Obama’s “get moving” movement could be at least partially to blame.

“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],” Harsha told the Examiner. “Obviously, further study is needed.”

Harsha also said electronic devices such as cell phones and iPods could have contributed to the higher death rate.

Obama’s “get moving” push is an effort to reduce childhood obesity rates. The movement went into overdrive early last year when President Obama created the White House task force on childhood obesity.

The increase in pedestrian deaths is notable because overall traffic deaths decreased by 8 percent. Moreover, the spike in fatalities in 2010 marks the end of four consecutive years of steady decline in pedestrian deaths.