A Driver, Not a Car, Killed Colleen O’Connor. It Was a Crash, Not an Accident.

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Colleen O’Connor’s family, friends, and Denver Post colleagues are remembering her 60-year-long life after a driver named Jesus Carreno, 23, ended it Wednesday night on 1st Avenue near Downing Street. Her death marks the ninth pedestrian killed this year by a driver in Denver.

O’Connor recently wrote about street improvements on Broadway meant to make the street safer for people riding bikes and walking. In 2010 she reported on ghost bikes to honor bicyclists killed by drivers.

Jesus Carreno. Photo: Denver PD

Some media outlets, including ABC 7 and the Post, wrote headlines blaming O’Connor’s death on a car, but that’s not right. A person killed O’Connor with his car. This is not a matter of semantics — it’s a matter of accuracy.

O’Connor’s death wasn’t an accident, either, even though that’s how Fox 31 referred to the crash. It may not have been intentional, but it was no accident. There’s a difference.

Denver PD suspects Carreno of driving drunk. If he was, he chose to endanger O’Connor’s life, as well as his own, by getting behind the wheel inebriated. If Carreno was sober, the term “accident” implies that O’Connor’s death was some unavoidable act of God. It wasn’t.

That’s why the Associated Press tweaked its guidance for journalists earlier this year. Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt reported on the change in April:

The new style guide will be released June 1 and cautions against calling a crash an “accident” in cases “when negligence is claimed or proven.” The AP tweeted today that “crash, collision or other terms” should be used instead.

Mayor Michael Hancock committed to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries earlier this year when he declared Denver a Vision Zero city. In doing so, he sent the message that his administration views deaths like O’Connor’s as preventable, not an inevitable part of everyday life. When will local media outlets catch on?

  • TakeFive

    So it’s just like the apparently more accurate semantics of saying that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I’ll adjust my thinking a tad then. Personally, it seems like a distinction without much difference but your points are fair.

    I also noticed that news sources used the emotional (suspected) “drunk” rather than simply a suspected DUI even though no BAC has yet been reported.

    Not sure you can design stupidity out of humanity but I have no objection to trying to design safer streets.

    • Anthony

      I just realized where I recognized your handle from: the Skyscraper forum threads. I’m happy to see your wit and thoughtfulness extend to this page. I’ve seen you encourage and facilitate a good dialogue and look forward to you bringing that to this site!

      • TakeFive

        Anthony… that is certainly nice of you to say; I appreciate it.

        I did find motivation to do some homework. I’ve already leaned about numerous things that are planned, projects that are both interesting and exciting that I had either little or no knowledge of… obviously useful for making informed comments. 🙂

    • neroden

      My riposte to the NRA was always, people carrying guns kill people a lot. People without guns find it a lot harder. (Unless they have cars.)

  • disqus_RSsn9buHVe

    I witnessed this I heard breaks screeching and boom he hit her and he kept going I stepped and the street to stop other cars from hitting her she didn’t make it out of crosswalk in time and he was speeding to a red light that just barley turned green he changed lanes to go around the cars that were stopped and hit her I later continued walking to later see him stopped by another witness on a motorcycle he was calling his brother instead of 911 we then repeatedlytold him call 911

    • TakeFive

      Very interesting. The reckless driving is worse than drinking although neither is smart and both combined will make his life a living hell for a long, long time.

      • neroden

        Unless the police and DAs let him get away with it. They need to revoke his license, to protect the public. Will they?


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