Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Drivers Struck and Killed Octavious Calloway on I-5 Last Month

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
Killed in 2019
Killed in 2018
Killed in 2017
Killed in 2016:
Killed in 2015:

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:

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