This was posted on skyscrapercity.com without attribution, so I googled for it: http://www.civic-strategies.com/resources/metros/atlanta.htm
"Auto Recovery Zones"
What are sidewalks for? If you think they are for pedestrians to walk safely, then welcome to Atlanta, where the state Department of Transportation considers them to be "auto recovery zones." As the DOT sees it, the sidewalk is a buffer, so if a driver veers off the road while talking on his cell phone, he has a chance to yank the car back on the road. This startling piece of information came out when a developer tried to get the DOT's permission to plant trees between his development's sidewalks and the street, to give the walkways a shaded appearance. Absolutely not, the DOT said. If a car hit a tree, one official said, it would surely hurt the car. But if a car roars up on a sidewalk, there's a chance it won't hit any pedestrians. "It's kind of like asking the question, which is the lesser of two evils? We want to protect the pedestrian, but we want to protect the drivers as well," the official said. Pedestrian advocates are amazed. "(The DOT) would rather have a pedestrian killed by a car than have a car fender dented," said one.
Footnote: Atlanta is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians. In 2001, 64 pedestrians were killed there. Some of them, apparently, were walking on auto recovery zones.