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Posts from the "“Accidents”" Category

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Trucker in Tracy Morgan Crash: Lay Off, It Was an “Accident”

Kevin Roper, the Walmart trucker who reportedly slammed into a limo bus carrying several comedians early Saturday morning, is having his say on Twitter. He wants the world to know that the crash that killed James “Uncle Jimmy Mack” McNair and critically injured Tracy Morgan and three others was an “accident.”

Roper asserts that he was not drunk or high and that he wasn’t charged at the scene because he wasn’t guilty of any crime. He referred repeatedly to his “ACCIDENT,” underlining the reason why Streetsblog and an increasing number of other publications refer to such events as “crashes” or “collisions.”

Note: The Twitter account under the handle @Kevinmoneytalks describes its user as “Trying to win more than lose! Driving trucks for a living #Walmart,” but we don’t have any independent verification that these tweets were indeed authored by the same person who was driving the truck that hit the comedians’ limo. According to news reports, the Twitter account previously included the phrase, “Move or get hit!” in the description, but that’s been removed.

The sad thing is, Roper is right about one thing: Without the media spotlight brought on by the involvement of celebrities, he probably would have gotten “a few traffic tickets.” As he said, he wasn’t immediately charged with anything. That’s how the justice system views these crashes: unavoidable acts of god, the unfortunate collateral damage of the “freedom” afforded by car culture.

No matter whether Roper was drunk, high, or tired, he failed to notice that traffic had slowed down and slammed his tractor-trailer into another vehicle, and that act caused loss of life. Operating any vehicle — especially one as massive as a tractor-trailer — requires serious attention and concentration.

Although in one tweet he says, “i wish it was me and i can’t express how horrible i feel,” all his subsequent tweets are defensive and exculpatory. After all, killing someone in traffic is just an “accident.”

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Driver Who Killed Cyclist Sues the Dead Teen’s Parents

In a case the Ottawa Citizen called “astonishing evidence of the raw appeal of… victimhood,” a woman who struck and killed a teenage boy riding his bike outside of Toronto is suing the boy’s family for $1.35 million.

Brandon Majewski was 17 when he was killed in a collision with an SUV. The driver is now suing his family. Photo: National Post

Brandon Majewski was 17 when he was killed by an SUV driver. The driver is now suing his family. Photo: National Post

The driver, Sharlene Simon, is seeking compensation for the ”great pain and suffering” she has sustained since killing Majewski with her SUV, as well as “a severe shock to her system” and lessening of “her enjoyment of life,” her lawyers wrote in the suit, filed in an Ontario court.

Simon struck 17-year-old Brandon Majewski and his two 16-year-old friends in October 2012, killing Majewski and badly injuring another boy. The three were riding home from a coffee shop on a Saturday night on rural Innisfil Beach Road, about 50 miles north of Toronto.

“I think it’s very cruel,” said Brandon’s father, Derek Majewski, of the lawsuit. Derek said Brandon’s death was devastating for his family. Brandon’s grief-stricken brother, Devon, died six months later after consuming a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.

No charges were filed against Simon, after local police concluded that limited visibility was the main cause of the collision, and that the boys had only “minimal reflectors” and were wearing dark-colored clothes. The fact that the boys weren’t wearing helmets and were riding abreast were also cited by police officers in their report, despite being wholly legal.

The victims’ families are suing Simon and Simcoe County, where the crash occurred, for $900,000. The suit alleges Simon was “speeding, under the influence or texting” at the time of the crash and that her husband, a police officer in nearby York, should have prevented her from driving. The Majewski family has also charged that the investigation by local police was biased against the boys.

As for Simon’s countersuit, Lloyd Alter at Treehugger wrote that it “may just be a smart legal tactic.”

“Or,” he added, “it might just be totally disgusting.”

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Map: Where Buffalo Drivers Smash Into Buildings (Hint: Everywhere)

Cynthia Van Ness, a librarian and host of BuffaloResearch.com, put together the above map, showing the nearly 150 sites where drivers crashed into buildings in the Buffalo region and made the news since 2006.

The map includes links to the media coverage of the incidents, and Van Ness points out how reporters and editors tend to implicitly forgive the drivers involved in these crashes:

Let others fume about “jaywalking.” This is a map of “jaydriving.” About 150 crash sites marked! Each placemark has a link to a news story. Note how often the car is blamed instead of the driver.

A September 2010 incident where “a van crashed into a senior citizen’s apartment complex” was referred to by WGRZ as a “minor accident.” The article notes that the driver was an “older man,” that “alcohol was not a factor” and that “no one was injured.” No harm, no foul, apparently, since no one had the misfortune of standing in his way!

In all likelihood, the map captures only a fraction of all the vehicular bricks-and-mortar mayhem in the region, since it relies on news coverage, not comprehensive public records.

Van Ness calls Buffalo “the world capital of drivers crashing into buildings,” but this seems to be a common occurrence all over America.

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Is This Anti-Speeding PSA Too Real for America?

Wow. This public safety spot from New Zealand really brings home how decisions we casually make while driving can have grave consequences.

The PSA questions the whole idea that traffic violence is somehow unavoidable, the result of fate more than human error. In the United States the notion that traffic collisions are nothing but tragic “accidents” remains baked right into the language that most people use to describe these incidents.

We were alerted to this video by Erik Griswold, who asserted that the Federal Highway Administration and the Ad Council “would never allow” such a powerful public safety message about speeding to air here in the United States.

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It’s Time for the AP to Nix the Term “Accident” to Describe Car Collisions

The Cleveland Plain Dealer uses the term "accident" to describe a collision that led to vehicular homicide charges. The Associated Press' editors have cautioned against using this term, but haven't made it part of the organization's all-important Style Guide for journalists. Image: ##http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2013/12/woman_who_ran_over_person_in_h.html## Cleveland.com##

The Cleveland Plain Dealer used the term “accident” to describe a fatal hit-and-run collision. The influential Associated Press cautions against using the term “accident,” but that’s not an official rule in its influential style guide for journalists. Image: Cleveland.com

Earlier this year, the NYPD adopted a policy to stop using the term “accident” to describe traffic collisions. The San Francisco police department made similar changes a few months later. The problem with the term “accident,” of course, is that it implies no one was at fault — that traffic injuries and deaths are just random, unpreventable occurrences. It’s part of a cultural permissiveness toward dangerous driving, which in turn contributes to the loss of life.

News media, however, have been slower than police to acknowledge the shortcomings of the term “accident.” While even NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, notorious for turning a blind eye to traffic violence, issued a statement that “the term ‘accident’ has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event,” major press outlets like the New York Times and the Cleveland Plain Dealer still tend to use “accident” as the default term for car crashes, even in vehicular homicide cases.

One journalism institution could change that. The Associated Press produces the preeminent style guide for journalists, a reference used by news outlets around the country and around the world. While the AP has acknowledged the inherent problems with the term “accident,” it has yet to issue clear guidelines for journalists that would prevent the imprecise term from tacitly excusing thousands of deaths every year.

In its style guide, the Associated Press has no entry for “accident,” “collision,” or “crash.” However, in a supplemental guide for journalists called “Ask the Editor,” the AP advises journalists against using the term “accident.”

In one entry, a reporter asks editor David Minthorn: “I’ve always written traffic ‘crash,’ not ‘accident’ because the latter seems to imply no fault. But increasingly I see people calling crashes accidents. Does it matter?”

Minthorn responds: “Yes, avoid terms that might suggest a conclusion.” So there you have it, right? Not quite.

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Feds Withhold Fatal-Accident Info from Public

An article in the LA Times (reg required) details how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has systematically withheld information on fatal accidents from the public, even going so far as to deny Freedom of Information Act requests from researchers.

R.A. Whitworth, whose Maryland-based company conducts highway safety research for attorneys, insurance companies and even government agencies, discovered a few years ago that federal regulators were collecting the global coordinates of fatal accidents and linking them to its database, known as the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, or FARS. The database is one of the most important kept by the federal government.

Almost by happenstance, Whitworth discovered on the agency's website in 2004 the geographic coordinates of fatal accidents. He immediately saw the value: He could create maps of accidents, providing insights into where they were occurring on any given day and under what conditions.

He downloaded the data to his computer, but a few days later it was gone from the website. He called the agency and explained that the data had disappeared and he would like the agency to repost it. Officials called the posting a mistake and said he should erase it from his own computer, he recalled.

Whitworth waited until the following year, to see if the agency would again mistakenly post the data. This time, it did not. So he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency in September 2005. The request was denied.
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