News organizations need to relearn how to cover car collisions—especially when the victims are on foot.
On the evening of Nov. 13, Roy Saravia Alvarez was walking home along the sidewalk of West Glebe Road in Alexandria, Virginia. At around 8 p.m., the driver of a truck jumped the sidewalk while turning left, striking Saravia Alvarez and pinning the 46-year-old underneath the vehicle. The driver, later identified by authorities as Fredy Ortiz-Dominguez, remained in the truck, spinning its wheels and rocking it back and forth for nearly five minutes. A passerby stopped and told Ortiz-Dominguez to get out of his vehicle, but he did so only when police arrived. By then, Saravia Alvarez was dead.
“We’re totally immune to this idea that 40,000 people die every year on U.S. roads,” says Kelcie Ralph, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University. “We shrug it off.”
Newspapers’ scant coverage of traffic crashes reflects this widespread disinterest. “These would be low-priority stories,” says Robert McCartney, who recently retired from a long career at the Washington Post that included a stint as the top editor of the Metro section from 2005 to 2009.