Two weekends ago Octavious Calloway died on I-5 while on foot. There were many uncertainties, and I was hopeful more information would come out. Best practices for safety and livability we should demand for urban streets also often do not extend to access-controlled, high-speed interstates, even when they have been built through existing neighborhoods and other urban contexts. The whole thing is difficult and sad.
Apart from all that, a lingering problem with our autoism is the way we erase drivers.
In the absence of information from police, an early version of the story erases the drivers. From the SJ a week ago Monday morning, the 23rd:
A man was killed after being struck by two vehicles on Interstate 5 in Salem Sunday evening.
Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a pedestrian near milepost 256, the Market Street interchange, at about 5:50 p.m., according to Oregon State Police.
An investigation found the man was struck by a Dodge pickup and then a Toyota SUV while trying to cross the southbound lanes. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The identity of the deceased was not yet released.
Two lanes of the interstate were closed for about three and a half hours.
In sharing the manufacturer and style of the cars, the reporting totally exemplifies writing about cars rather than people.
|On erasing the driver - Columbia Journalism Review
With more information, the story in print still reproduces the personality of the cars and erases any drivers.
|In print on Wednesday the 25th
There are many reasons a person might make what otherwise seems to be an unwise decision to be on foot on the interstate:
- Their car broke down and they were working on it, or walking to seek assistance.
- They were unsheltered and were crossing to or from an encampment.
- They were fleeing a dangerous situation
There are other possibilities, too, and we just don't know what was happening on the highway.
The framing in the stories too often disadvantages the dead and sees them as the most blame-worthy, sometimes even seemingly deserving that ultimate punishment because of "poor life choices," never recognizing fully that drivers, even when operating lawfully and prudently, still employ lethal force and power and are responsible for the safe operation of a motor vehicle. And they might not have been operating lawfully and prudently. But the framing schema assumes driver innocence and pedestrian culpability.
This post may be updated.Killed in 2020
- Jaime Le Ann Hall (on skateboard)
- Sharon Pritchard
- Mario Lopez-Lopez (walking a bike)
- Andrew Otho Polston on Windsor Island Road (on bike)
- Jolene Braasch Berry (on bike)
- Richardo Morales Avila (in McMinnville)
- Marshall Leslie
- Linda Adamson (south Salem) and Stephanie Ashford (just outside Salem)
- Jason Libel (on bike)
- Josephine Watkins
- Rodric Kenyon Drolshagen
- Olivia Stroup
- Jaren Nash
- Alex Armes
- Anthony Earnest
- Baxter Harrell
- Unknown (just outside Salem)
- Bradley Goad (in Silverton)
- James Alton
- Caroline Storm
- William Hatch
- Travis Lane
- David McGregor
- Michael and Christine Crossland
- Rebecca Schoff
For more discussion of language see these recent examples:
- "Headline Omits Verb, Erases the Driver; New TRB Paper Addresses Problem" (2019). This also has links to a follow-up study on framing and reader interpretation.
- See the way the story develops with different publications in "Driver Strikes and Kills Marshall Leslie on Foot near Downtown Safeway." (2019)
- "Why so much Acceptance for Traffic Cone Theory of Walking?" with discussion of a Salem Police PSA (2015)
- Notes on a City of Salem PSA this month, "City PSA on Time Change and Safety Needs Paradigm Change Itself." It has many links to the history of jaywalking also. (2019)
- On "distracted walking," "Death on Foot: Too Much on Distracted Walking Canard." (2018)
- "Why Pedestrian Rights themselves may not be Sufficient." (2015)
- Two discussions of a law review article about our system of subsidy for autoism, "The Laws for Compulsory Autoism at The Atlantic," and "Police Publish Video on How to Speed Without a Ticket." (both 2019)