Car-centrism: Why does the news media always let human drivers off the hook when non-driving humans get killed?


Can any human (as opposed to his or her word processor) connected with the news media, now or in the past, explain why other humans walking, biking or skateboarding invariably are hit, injured and sometimes killed by vehicles, and not by the humans driving them?

Is this stated somewhere in a style guide: Thou shalt not trouble a driver when a vehicle can be blamed?

Greenville councilman fatally struck by car, by Aprile Rickert (Tom May Unlimited)

Alan K. Johnson was struck Saturday on U.S. 150

GREENVILLE — The Town of Greenville is mourning the loss of a community staple and council member who died Saturday after being struck by a car.

Alan K. Johnson, 66, was crossing the road in the 9600 block of U.S. 150 when he was hit by a 1996 Toyota Rav4, driven by Constance Sue Huber, 69, of DePauw, according to a news release from the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.

First in the title, then in the opening paragraph — and for a third time in the opening clause of the second paragraph, it’s the car that killed Johnson. Only in the second paragraph is the driver identified.

Wait — the driver was identified?

Has the driver who killed Matt Brewer in August yet been identified?

Has the Combined Accident Reconstruction Team, the prosecutor’s fanciful name for “here in Floyd County we don’t prosecute drivers for killing non-drivers,” released the report on Matt’s death?

In May of 2016, Chloe Allen was killed by a driver named Terra Lawrence while trying to cross Spring Street at the suburban chain hellscape of Vincennes and Spring. The late Branden Klayko wrote about it at Broken Sidewalk.

I’m reprinting Branden’s commentary in its entirety, with highlighting of crucial passages.

Woman killed by motorist in New Albany

Chloe Allen, 83, is dead after being struck by a motorist in downtown New Albany over the weekend.

The collision took place at Spring Street and Vincennes Street in the Southern Indiana city at 2:00p.m. on Friday, May 13. Allen was crossing the street in the crosswalk when struck by Terra Lawrence, 42, who failed to observe Allen in the street. Lawrence was driving a 2013 Dodge Ram truck and turning left onto Spring from Vincennes, according to police reports. Allen died after being transported to University Hospital in Louisville.

The incident was reported by the WLKY, WDRB, WHAS11, and the News & Tribune.

While a great deal of information was rendered by an investigation, it’s unfortunate that for the sake of a catchy acronym, the unit is labeled the Floyd County Combined Accident Reconstruction Team. As we have discussed many times, crashes and accidents are very different things and should not be mislabeled.

All of the local news reported that the pedestrian was struck “by a vehicle” rather than the driver of that vehicle. Cars and trucks don’t drive themselves—people crash them into things. Both WDRB and WHAS11 labeled the crash an accident, with WHAS11 going as far as to include a large “Accident” graphic complete with cracked windshield illustrating its report.

Each report duly noted a police statement that said speed nor alcohol are suspected in the crash. From a witness account, the motorist simply was not paying attention when turning, although none of the reports cited that the driver was errant or that charges were due.

New Albany has really let itself go at this intersection, allowing an anti-urban Walgreens, White Castle, and Rally’s to be built behind moats of parking that make walking unsafe. Low visibility crosswalks are clearly worn away by vehicle tires, compounding the walkability issue.

But the city should have seen this one coming. Back in 2014, urban planner Jeff Speck issued a report on the streets of downtown New Albany in which he identified Vincennes Street as “clearly oversized for its traffic.” Speck wrote of the three-lane street: “At no point do car accounts approach the number that would require a third lane. This condition is supported by the fact that the third lane, rather then (sic) being striped for left turns, merely provides northbound redundancy with no southbound counterpart.” He recommended a reconfiguration to improve safety.

Speck had also recommended making Spring Street west of here, among other local streets, a two-way thoroughfare (Spring is two-way to the east). He labeled Spring Street’s design as it moved from a grid to a highway layout as dangerous:

This four-lane section of Spring Street also feels very much like a highway, and experiences a large amount of speeding while creating an environment that is dangerous to walk along or live near. The ideal solution for this street would be to calm the traffic and create an environment of greater safety, without significantly changing its capacity, beyond perhaps a slight lowering of volume to match current demand.

Further, KIPDA has ranked two segments of Spring Street in New Albany—including this intersection—as among the most crash-prone in all of Southern Indiana, spurring plans for design changes on the street. Most of those changes call for lights making driving through the area easier, but buffered bike lanes are also part of the plan, which will be under construction this summer. Even these minor changes were challenged by area trucking companies in court, citing they make driving big rigs through the area more difficult.

New Albany has a long way to go on street safety.

By the way, as City Hall dithers about radar displays to tell them what the man in the moon already knows — drivers drive too damn fast on Spring Street — dead man’s curve remains a killing waiting to happen.

ASK THE BORED: Faced with 75 signatures on a petition, Nash, Summers and the clueless BOW non-safety board can’t muster a single empathetic response.

They’re not going to do anything to promote public safety, are they?