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