Dickinson Law Review
Angie Schmitt's Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America delves into the complex, multi-layered phenomenon of how traffic infrastructure and policies systematically disadvantage pedestrians and contribute to thousands of deaths and injuries each year. Despite the breadth of the problem and its often-technical aspects, Schmitt presents the problem in an engaging and approachable manner through a step-by-step analysis combining background, statistics, and anecdotes.
While Right of Way tends to focus on infrastructure design, it offers much for legal scholars, lawyers, and policymakers. Schmitt addresses several policy issues at length in the book. But this discussion raises new questions and illuminates potential connections to other areas of the law. In particular, recent criminal law scholarship addresses the interplay between traffic policy and criminal law enforcement, and related scholarship reveals the scope of the misdemeanor and infraction criminal justice systems and their impact on communities. Schmitt's work illustrates the broader phenomena addressed in this research and can further inform work in this area. This review parses out several of these issues and presents the beginnings of a research agenda inspired by Schmitt's discussion.
Finally, this review runs with one of the ideas suggested in the research agenda through a brief discussion of how Right of Way exemplifies a phenomenon of laws as half-measures-policy measures that are politically appealing or cost-effective that fail to meaningfully address social problems yet are presented as solutions. These half-measures flourish in the policy space devoted to pedestrian infrastructure, and this review identifies and critiques examples of these policies while identifying more comprehensive solutions.
Michael L. Smith, Policy's Place in Pedestrian Infrastructure (book review), 127 Dickinson L. Rev. 587 (2023).