CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

The Accidental Journalist (first in a series)

As this blog has noted before, the news media seems to go out of its way to avoid ascribing personal responsibility in any sort of traffic crash (I am now calling this segment ‘The Accidental Journalist’). I just came across this weird doozy of a sentence in this article, about a “problem” intersection in Georgia:

On Deans Bridge Road at Gordon Highway, rear-end accidents are occurring in the right-turn lanes.

Drivers are stopping at the yield sign and causing accidents for those not paying attention behind them. Mr. Cassell said officials are looking at correcting the problem with new lane striping.

Let me get this straight. Drivers are stopping at the yield sign, which they are required to do when there is approaching traffic, and thus “causing accidents” to the poor sods (or “causing accidents for,” in this article’s odd wording) behind them who are not, uh, paying attention. I propose this wording: Inattentive drivers are crashing into the unsuspecting behinds of law-abiding folk.

I’m also not sure how you fix rear-end crashes with lane striping, FWIW.

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 8th, 2009 at 6:16 am and is filed under The Accidental Journalist, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “The Accidental Journalist (first in a series)”

  1. mikey2gorgeous Says:

    Let’s not forget about the phenomenon that people who drive too close to the vehicle in front are the most likely to get rear-ended (by someone else who does the same) due to their very sharp braking habits.

    It is interesting to see how that was reported though – in the UK we have had reports of cyclists ‘colliding with cars’ as though the car damage was more important than the vulnerable road user!

  2. Dan Says:

    I disagree with this simplistic observation. All too often inexperienced and/or bad drives do not interpret yield signs correctly. Even when the roadway ahead of them is clear they stop if traffic is passing in adjacent lanes. There are at least two intersections in the town where I live where there is rarely ever any reason for merging traffic to stop but there is a yield sign. Time and again you will see cars stop when the lane ahead of them is completely open! Driving too close is a fault of the trailing driver but drivers who fail to efficiently navigate the roadways are a drain on the transportation system.

  3. John D. Williams Says:

    They will most likely decide to make the Yield a Stop sign.

  4. Peter Smith Says:

    i’m hoping to put together a “Journalists’ Guide To Covering Auto Crashes” — to correct these language issues, carhead, etc. I’d like a catchier name for it, though.

  5. Bob Says:

    Dan: Who cares? The point is: (1) people stopped in the road, (2) other people had insufficient following distance / attentiveness and crashed into them. Who cares whether the first person stopped for a yield sign, a stop sign, or a goat? Your job as a driver is to pay attention to what’s happening on the road ahead of you and not crash into it.

  6. Dan Says:

    So when the old man stopped his car on the 695 beltway because he missed his exit and caused a chain reaction that killed the driver of another car we shouldn’t question the decision making of the first driver?

    People should drive defensively but people should also drive intelligently. People who make dumb decisions may not be personally liable for the accidents they cause (funny how the law works that way) but they should not be immune from criticism.

  7. njkayaker Says:

    Dan: “too often inexperienced and/or bad drives do not interpret yield signs correctly.”

    As far as I understand, the yield does not require that you do not stop. All that it does is allow the option of not stopping. That is, stopping at a yield for whatever reason is a perfectly correct “interpretation” and it’s legal too!

    Dan: “There are at least two intersections in the town where I live where there is rarely ever any reason for merging traffic to stop but there is a yield sign. Time and again you will see cars stop when the lane ahead of them is completely open!”

    This ends up being relevant to nothing. If it’s bad for the leading car to stop, it’s vastly worse that the trailing car runs into them!

    Dan: “So when the old man stopped his car on the 695 beltway because he missed his exit and caused a chain reaction that killed the driver of another car we shouldn’t question the decision making of the first driver?”

    This situation isn’t anything like a “yield”, where it is required that you expect that the leading car will stop.

    Dan: “People should drive defensively but people should also drive intelligently. People who make dumb decisions may not be personally liable for the accidents they cause (funny how the law works that way) but they should not be immune from criticism.”

    Legally, people can stop at yield signs and it’s completely illegal for people to run into them!

    Stopping at a yield (for whatever reason) does nothing to mitigate the responsibility of the trailing driver not to hit the leading car. You certainly might be able to criticize the leading car but it has no bearing on the responsibilities trailing car!

  8. Richard C Haven Says:

    Let’s see: the public servants, having observed that a certain location has a lot of rear-end collisions, can

    A. Hide behind the rules of liability and ignore a bad situation.

    B. Realize that if many drivers (not just a few unusually inattentive ones) are rear-ending others, than perhaps something is making that more likely.

    Is it better to be “right” or to address a dangerous situation?

  9. njkayaker Says:

    “A. Hide behind the rules of liability and ignore a bad situation.”

    They probably can’t “hide behind the rules of liability”. That is, in the situation described in the article referenced by the blog post, they are likely liable if they are aware of an addressable situation. Note too that the article says the “public servants” are not “ignoring” the bad situation.

    Since it’s the job of the public servants to address safety issues, they would be negligent if they did not do so.

  10. gpsman Says:

    This IS among of the oddest of logical aberrations; who and/or what is responsible for crashes.

    - LA Times

    “Heavy fog is being blamed for a multi-car pileup on Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass that could involve as many as 50 vehicles, including two big rigs, authorities said this morning.”
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/06/50-car-pileup.html

    The “authorities” are clearly very remarkable imbeciles.

    They often never stop to consider how the preceding (or those following) vehicles managed to not crash, or the vehicles on the other side of the highway.

    Nope. Apparently the unnamed authorities believe fog attacks specific vehicles without rhyme or reason… but headline writers are reluctant to publish “Fog Attacks 50 Vehicles on Cajon Pass”.

  11. fred_dot_u Says:

    gpsman, a similar crash happened in central florida not too long ago. Heavy fog, smoke from an uncontrolled controlled burn and early morning dew point temperatures all combined to reduce visibility to less than a few hundred feet.

    The news media was quick to blame the forestry service, the state police and other authorities. After a substantial period of time, beyond a few months, the Florida Highway Patrol issued a number of traffic citations to those involved in the crashes.

    At least in this case, certain authorities recognized that motor vehicle operators are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle, but it would appear that the new media take the credit for being imbeciles.

  12. gpsman Says:

    And certain authorizes did not:

    “The fog was a contributing factor to the crashes, (Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Larry) Coggins said, but he downplayed the smoke as a cause, saying deputies who were patrolling the area earlier Wednesday morning reported smoke was not an issue.
    http://wcbstv.com/national/Florida.highway.pileup.2.626211.html

    He only implies smoke could have caused the crashes, had it been more dense.

    I would agree there are more imbeciles amongst “reporters” (/editors), but the “authorities” are suffering no shortage in this regard, AFAICT.

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