Monday, November 11, 2019

Driver Kills Josephine Watkins in Crosswalk on Portland Road at Wayside Terrace

A driving 19 year old has struck and killed Josephine Watkins crossing Portland Road on foot in a marked crosswalk this evening.

The initial release from Salem PD:
The Salem Police Department is currently investigating a fatal crash on Portland Rd NE at Wayside Terrace NE, which has Portland Rd closed in both directions between Hyacinth Rd and Northgate Rd NE....

On November 11th, 2019 at 6:18pm officers responded to the report of a pedestrian struck while attempting to cross Portland Rd, near Wayside Terrace Ave NE. Witnesses stated that the female pedestrian was crossing Portland Rd in a marked crosswalk when a vehicle travelling northbound on Portland Road struck the pedestrian. Witnesses to the crash stopped and attempted life saving measures on the pedestrian, who was later prounced deceased at the scene. The driver of the vehicle stopped and remained on scene and is cooperating with investigators. There were no injuries to anyone in the involved vehicle.

This crash remains under investigation and further details regarding the cause of the crash will be released as they become available. Investigators are currently working to identify the pedestrian and notify her next of kin.
The enhanced crosswalk at Wayside Terrace
with center refuge island and flashing beacons
I have not been out there lately, but this intersection was one of the sites selected for an enhanced crosswalk treatment as part of a larger Portland Road project. It appears to have been finished (see comment below), and it will be important to learn about ways it failed to protect the person on foot.

The Portland Road project has
an enhanced crosswalk at Wayside
Just a few weeks ago, a driver killed Jason Libel as he was biking on Portland Road.

Update, mid-afternoon Tuesday: An update from the Salem PD still erases the driver (see below for notes on this), and focuses on the fact that the beacon may not have been flashing:
Salem Investigators have identified the victim of yesterday's fatal crash as 60 yr old Salem resident Josephine Watkins. The victim was struck by a vehicle driven by a 19 yr old driver as she was attempting to cross Portland Rd near Wayside Terrace in a marked crosswalk. The crosswalk is equipped with functioning warning lights but witnesses stated the lights were not activated at the time of the crash.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. No arrests or citations have been issued at this time.
(This post will be updated.)

On Reporting Conventions

Columbia Journalism Review
Because of the way we have normalized car crashes, there is a whole constellation of problems with our coverage. The initial story at the SJ depends on the Police template, both of which use the same tired cliches to erase the driver:
[Headline:] "Woman dies after being hit by car on Portland Road NE"

Police are investigating a fatal crash Monday evening involving a pedestrian on Portland Rd NE at Wayside Terrace NE.

The crash was reported around 6:20 p.m. after a woman was struck by a car while crossing Portland Road near Wayside Terrance, according to Salem Police officials.

Witnesses told officers the woman was walking in the crosswalk when the vehicle — traveling northbound on Portland Road — hit her.
First print version (mainly third online version)
Still little reality for the driver:
Passive "struck by car" trope in first paragraph
For more discussion of language see these recent examples:
For more on the cultural and legal context of our autoism in which we minimize the responsibility of drivers and shift blame to people on foot, see:

We said "troubling" in 2015
but really, how troubled are we?
Killed in 2019
Killed in 2018
Killed in 2017
Killed in 2016:
Killed in 2015:


Anonymous said...

The work on Portland Road is complete, and Google StreetView even has the image from June 2019. It shows the intersection of Portland Road and Wayside Terrace has a marked crosswalk on the south side with rapid flashing beacons.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the info. Revised to reflect that and added a few more links on erasing the driver.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with Josephine Watkins' name.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with print version

Anonymous said...

She died because the signalized crosswalks provide information that is not reliable. Just because the signal is not activated does not mean that nobody is crossing. A driver that does not see flashing lights is less vigilant.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

You are missing the point, Anon. Our theory and laws of crosswalks do not require the kind of information you want them to provide. Unmarked crosswalks do not have any signal function to provide information. Drivers should not depend on infrastructure for signal functions.

The burden should also not be on people on foot to provide information, as if they needed to be walking traffic cones; equally, we should not create a default expectation in drivers that no signal or bright clothing means no person walking. In an urban context, the burden for safety should be always be on the person employing lethal speed and power: The driver.