Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How not to write about traffic deaths

The Washington Post has a story about a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate who was killed while riding her bike yesterday. It is maddening to me to read this trajedy described as this:
A 30-year-old Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate died late Monday night, less than two days after she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle in the Largo area, authorities said.

Yes, she was hit by a car, and that was the device that caused the wound that killed her. But that car had a driver. That driver killed that woman. Saying that the woman was killed by a car is as useful as saying that someone was killed by a gun. Drivers kill people with cars just as people kill people with guns. We should talk about traffic fatalities accurately and drivers should be held accountable. This description of the crash does not inspire confidence in the driver at all (note that the car hit a person yet the driver hit a deer. Why should the actor shift based on what was hit?):

Pettigrew was hit by a sport-utility vehicle traveling near the intersection of Campus Way. State police said the driver apparently thought she had hit a deer or another animal and realized what had happened only when she arrived home and found Pettigrew's bicycle trapped under her car. Pettigrew was not dragged by the vehicle but suffered severe injuries, police said.

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