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More biased PG reporting of automobile events

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Vannevar

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Sep 29 2013 at 7:01pm #

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/mercer-county-woman-dies-in-crash-705429/

Mercer County woman dies in crash
A Mercer County woman died this morning when the car she was a passenger in swerved to miss a bicyclist and struck a utility pole.

State police at Mercer said Jeffrey J. Benninghoff, 29, of Fredonia was traveling west on Delaware Road at 8:25 a.m. when he tried to avoid a bicyclist traveling in the same direction. His vehicle went into a spin and the passenger side struck the pole.

Police said the driver and a passenger, Chandra N. Kodali, 32, of Fredonia, were trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated by emergency responders. Ms. Chandra was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:45 a.m. by Deputy Coroner John Libonati.

Mr. Benninghoff was flown by medical helicopter to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, where he is listed in critical condition.

Here’s a non-blame the bicycle, alternative rewrite of the first two sentences – because this accident could not be the cyclist’s fault, so why attribute the death to the cyclist?

A Mercer County woman died this morning when the driver of the car she was in lost control of the vehicle and struck a utility pole.

State police at Mercer said Jeffrey J. Benninghoff, 29, of Fredonia was traveling west on Delaware Road at 8:25 a.m. at an unknown rate of speed when he overtook a bicyclist traveling in the same direction. His vehicle went into a spin and the passenger side struck the pole.

Police said the driver and a passenger, Chandra N. Kodali, 32, of Fredonia, were trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated by emergency responders. Ms. Chandra was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:45 a.m. by Deputy Coroner John Libonati.

Mr. Benninghoff was flown by medical helicopter to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, where he is listed in critical condition.


edmonds59

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:29am #

V’s re-write is almost completely correct. I would also revise it to say “A Mercer county woman was killed when….”. She didn’t just happen to die.
It couldn’t possibly be that this idiot driver was going too fast, or not paying attention, or just sucked at driving, yeah, it had to be the cyclist.
It makes me sad when a driver kills innocent individuals in these situations. A driver kills himself? Less sad.


StuInMcCandless

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Sep 30 2013 at 6:31am #

Did either car occupant have a seat belt on?

Oh, from the KDKA coverage, we have this:

Kodali was partially ejected from the vehicle…

And judging from the photo, showing the extent of damage, that car had to moving at a high rate of speed.

I would be curious to hear the cyclist’s account of this.


gg

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:00am #

It sure does read as if the cyclist shouldn’t be there at all. I would guess from looking at that picture the car was driving wildly fast. Last I checked motor vehicle drivers are supposed to have control and be able to stop if needed. Does that look like the driver was in control of their vehicle? Hope they do a followup that tells the real story, but probably not. Most would like to just blame some cyclist, so it makes it easier.


RustyRed

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:13am #

More coverage from WKBN in Youngstown

http://www.wkbn.com/2013/09/29/mercer-county-coroner-called-to-the-scene-of-fatal-accident/


jonawebb

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:49am #

From StreetView, the speed limit there is 55. It’s a two-lane country road, not in the best of shape, straight with a few hills, with driveways to farms. Exactly typical of the roads north of Pittsburgh, the kind I can remember riding on a randonnée, and getting passed by cars going 70 or more.


Mick

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Sep 30 2013 at 3:36pm #

I’m just glad he didn’t kill the cyclist.


chrispissingrivers

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Sep 30 2013 at 3:46pm #

Can we please show a little more compassion here? Someone lost their life and another person is in critical condition. How about we put aside our (extreme and, most often, excessive) biases for a few minutes while we show a little respect.

Regardless of what actually happened (and speculating on that on a message board is not exactly productive), everyone makes mistakes and now is probably not the proper time to be so aggressive about it. I’m not saying it’s wrong to blame the driver or wrong to say that the person riding a bike was not at fault. We don’t know what happened so how about we cool it and think of those who were injured.

This is part of the problem. Not the solution. Why is that so hard to see?


jonawebb

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Sep 30 2013 at 3:59pm #

@cpr ++


Drewbacca

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Sep 30 2013 at 4:37pm #

Disagree cpr… being critical of a newspaper article suggesting blame @ random cyclist who may or may not be involved in the accident in no way shows a lack of compassion.

Any life is valuable, be it behind a wheel or sitting on a saddle. Dangerous driving ends lives, some more vulnerable than others.


scott

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Sep 30 2013 at 4:50pm #

The sounds to me like it could be a good letter to the editor, if extra effort is given to be compassionate to those injured and deceased. Would one of you be willing to write it?


edmonds59

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:04pm #

What Drewbacca said. The original post was about the article author as much as blaming the cyclist for the crash.
Also, my previous statement has nothing to do with a cycling bias. I stand behind that earlier statement as a driver myself. I am very sad for the innocent passenger killed, her friends, and family.


Pierce

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:15pm #

Compassion is wasted on nonextant-beings

The person in critical condition, unless we here some crazy extenuating circumstances, essentially killed a lady

People passing a bicycle safely don’t end up in wrecks with stationary objects


Marko82

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:37pm #

Pierce wrote:People passing a bicycle safely don’t end up in wrecks with stationary objects

That.

Even if the cyclist was totally in the wrong -laying in the road for instance- how does this happen? If the trolls commenting on the news site can insist that ‘bikes dont belong on the road’, why cant we insist that cars be driven vigilantly.


Drewbacca

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Sep 30 2013 at 6:05pm #

Also, FWIW, I was a dumb kid that drove recklessly may times… I endangered both people on the road as well as my passengers. I’m not proud of this and I’m thankful that no harm ever came to anyone (but, there were some close calls).

If it were me, I’d fully expect and appreciate (albeit, not at the present time) that people hold me accountable for my driving behavior. That’s not to say that I’m placing blame on the driver… not at all, as I just stated, I’ve been there and it could have been me. I emphasize.

Of course I wish the driver of the car a full recovery… he’ll never recover from the responsibility of costing a friend her life and I’d hate to live with that; I can’t imagine living with such guilt. That is, if he recovers! For the sake of his family, I hope he does and I hope he can find a way to make this tragedy a positive (as much as is possible, all things considered). I feel for the family of the girl, whose life was ended prematurely, a death that could have been prevented. Both families have my deepest sympathy but I don’t see why I need to share that here in light of this discussion. I do feel it, so it doesn’t hurt to say it.

The take home is that we (as in, those reading the original article) need to all step back and question our own behavior and how it may endanger others instead of finding a scape goat (sun in the eyes, ice, other drivers, cyclists, wildlife, etc.). It’s called driving-for-conditions… granted, I don’t have enough info to know whether the driver in question was or was not. Perhaps some of us have jumped the gun to assume he was speeding… even at the speed limit, the results could have been the same. The cyclist could very well share some of the responsibility, we don’t know, but it was in extremely poor taste of the newspaper author to make that assumption without any facts to support such a position (poor editing if it was an honest mistake).

It is a touchy subject and while a private letter to the editor would be easy enough… it would be very hard to find the best wording for a public version to get the point across in light of a loss of life.


chrispissingrivers

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Sep 30 2013 at 7:50pm #

The point is that it doesn’t do anyone any good to just go straight to the negative when a tragedy happens. Do to others what you would want them to do to you. When stuff like this happens we just need to step back a bit. There’s more important things to consider in the wake of a tragedy than putting on your Super Biker cape and spewing negativity.

I read this message board from time to time and everything about bikes just gets taken way too seriously (in a bad way). Believe it or not, some people ride a bike because they thoroughly enjoy riding and it sucks when that joy gets ruined by reading stuff like what is on here a lot of the time.

No one is better than anyone else because they pedal a bike sometimes.


edmonds59

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Sep 30 2013 at 10:13pm #

That is a strange conclusion to arrive at based on the original point of the post. That’s really all I can say at this point.


Vannevar

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Sep 30 2013 at 11:02pm #

There’s a few reasons why media bias matters, and unfortunately the only time to describe it is when it occurs. Media has a major influence over the framework of public discourse. Media misreporting feeds misunderstanding and reinforces malformed perceptions. It is legitimate to identify mis-representation.

I would point out that two cities in India just banned bicycles from roadways to reduce delays that car drivers were experiencing. Let a few PG articles go by that explain tragic deaths by hanging it on the presence of a bicyclist on a public road, and you’ll see calls to remove bicyclists from public roads.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-24237390

http://www.ibtimes.com/no-ticket-ride-kolkata-india-bans-bicycles-reduce-traffic-congestion-terror-threats-1412820


Drewbacca

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Sep 30 2013 at 11:05pm #

edmonds59 wrote:That is a strange conclusion to arrive at based on the original point of the post. That’s really all I can say at this point.

+1 super-bikers like us just don’t understand?


Vannevar

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Sep 30 2013 at 11:08pm #

Scott, I will write a personal, not-for-publication letter to the editor. The object will be raising awareness for the next time and building a good relationship. There’s no way that I’d want this discussion in the L2Ed or oped page, where a grieving relative of any participant might encounter it.

I’ll cc:BikePgh on the letter. Also, note that the article has no byline so it was probably written by a junior weekend stringer.

Cheers, V.


Mikhail

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Oct 1 2013 at 11:58am #

Drewbacca wrote:Disagree cpr… being critical of a newspaper article suggesting blame @ random cyclist who may or may not be involved in the accident in no way shows a lack of compassion.

Any life is valuable, be it behind a wheel or sitting on a saddle. Dangerous driving ends lives, some more vulnerable than others.

+1


Mikhail

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:25pm #

chrispissingrivers wrote:The point is that it doesn’t do anyone any good to just go straight to the negative when a tragedy happens.

But it’s OK to write an newspaper article in this style. It’s OK to mention in every article that bicyclist wears (or not) a helmet. This is a pure positive style… yeah, right.


jonawebb

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:38pm #

Here’s the thing. The reporter probably got his info from the police report. The police got their info from the driver. The driver said he swerved to avoid a cyclist. Now, I’m sure the police hear “I swerved to avoid a deer” every time they find a driver off the road. This is just another version of the same thing. Maybe there was a cyclist, maybe the driver got distracted while reading comments on the PG web site. Who knows. But is the reporter supposed to not report the driver’s claim about the deer, er cyclist, or are they supposed to add some opinion of their own (“traveling at an unknown rate of speed”)? I don’t think so. Maybe the police should have been more skeptical — but in the aftermath of an accident are they supposed to get the story the driver gave (with no one to contradict them) or are they supposed to try to get them to change it? I think, ultimately, it falls to the people reading the story to recognize that a briefly reported item like this might not be totally accurate (the only real chance of getting closer to the truth is if there is an accident investigation, which probably is in progress as a matter of fact, which could determine the driver’s speed, among other things), or might even be based on a lie by the driver — there’s no way to tell — and to take it with a grain of salt. And to be sorry that someone died.


Drewbacca

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Oct 1 2013 at 2:57pm #

@jona, they should be aware of the implications of the story as written… the article passes blame onto a cyclist, intentional or not. It could have been worded much better, and I’m not usually one to get my panties in a bunch over this sort of thing. Likewise, this comment could have been much better worded. :)

Whatever the case, the cyclist is irrelevant to the story at this point until more information/investigation.


joanne

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Oct 1 2013 at 6:20pm #

Drivers kill 34,000 people every year in the US. That is a 9/11 almost every month–and many if not most of these killings are preventable.

But the people of this country are suffering from what I can best describe as a mass delusion that these 34,000 killings every year are just unavoidable acts of nature. Part of this delusion is baked into the language with which we speak about these atrocities–a car ran over someone; an SUV crashed into someone else, and almost never is this framed in a way that implies any responsibility by the vehicle operator–unless drugs are alcohol are involved.

34,000 people = full-capacity 747 crashing every single week, every year, and killing everyone on-board, every time. Can you even imagine the hysteria that would engulf this country if that were to happen? Think the articles reporting on each crash would absolve each pilot in the same way?

This isn’t about bikes. This is about fighting in any way possible the complete and utter insanity that has taken over our society.


Pierce

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Oct 1 2013 at 6:39pm #

Most of are deaths are from preventable causes.

A plant based diet and some exercise would eliminate a lot of these:


Vannevar

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Oct 2 2013 at 6:03am #

In fact, California has just banned bicycles and people on a state park’s roads so that cars can proceed without having to slow down.


Drewbacca

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Oct 2 2013 at 12:16pm #

Vannevar wrote:In fact, California has just banned bicycles and people on a state park’s roads so that cars can proceed without having to slow down.

That’s not really a fair interpretation, it’s a small park and more of the type you ride-through than ride around inside of. The rangers just rerouted bike traffic in order to create a safer environment for everyone… I have no problem with this. Torrey Pines is a beautiful park btw, and one of the best views near SanDiego.


Kordite

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Oct 2 2013 at 1:22pm #


Speed limit 15 MPH? That should be as safe as any city or suburban street. Even safer because that’s a lower speed limit than most places (I recall seeing a speed limit sign downtown that was 35 mph). It should be as safe as any school zone. If this street is dangerous then it’s likely because the drivers are going much faster than the posted 15mph.


Drewbacca

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Oct 2 2013 at 2:59pm #

Kordite wrote:Speed limit 15 MPH? That should be as safe as any city or suburban street.

sure, if people maintained that speed… that goes for both bicycles and cars.

Kordite wrote:If this street is dangerous then it’s likely because the drivers are going much faster than the posted 15mph.

In fairness, I think the use of the road by pedestrians is more of a problem than cyclists and the obvious solution is to widen the road and add a designated walk-way.


Vannevar

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Oct 2 2013 at 9:54pm #

The people are the problem, and we can’t slow down the cars. Ban the people. I just can’t support that. On an interstate, or a limited access highway, certainly. In a park?

Anyway, my reason for raising it is: if we tolerate sloppy reporting and misrepresentation, it’s not completely crazy to suggest that we’ll see bicycles restricted on public roadways.


Benzo

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Oct 3 2013 at 8:00am #

where does the road go? to a parking lot in the middle of the park. It doesn’t look like any kind of thruway. The people inconvenienced by not being able to walk here are probably the same people who are driving up the road. Everyone looses.

The “reasonable alternative” looks like a 5 lane divided highway.


chrispissingrivers

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Oct 7 2013 at 9:43pm #

You guys really just don’t get it.


Drewbacca

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Oct 7 2013 at 10:06pm #

chrispissingrivers wrote:You guys really just don’t get it.

Do you have that tattooed on your arm somewhere?


chrispissingrivers

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Oct 8 2013 at 6:48am #

That doesn’t make any sense.


Mikhail

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Oct 8 2013 at 11:22am #

chrispissingrivers wrote:You guys really just don’t get it.

You really just don’t get it.


chrispissingrivers

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Oct 8 2013 at 2:01pm #

Yeah, you’re right.


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 2:18pm #

I’m with Chris.

Come on now so many board regulars… look it’s galling to be blamed when there’s nothing known and the scene only points to the driver.

There is a need to point out bias when reporting on a tragedy, but as Vannevar pointed out, that need is unfortunate. It sounds like that was done respectfully and discreetly. We should call it done.

Some of the tone here is reflective of a serious empathy deficit. We need to take a step back and re-examine how we’ve lost that.


Drewbacca

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:22pm #

byogman wrote:I’m with Chris.

You’re pissing rivers now, too? Sorry, it’s hard to take Chris’ name seriously.

From my perspective, Chris is implying that this entire thread is somehow in error and that we shouldn’t be discussing this issue. I’ll agree in so far as a few comments are a bit jaded, but I don’t think they devalue the lives lost in any way. I wonder if any more details from the accident have come to light since this thread was started?


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:43pm #

I didn’t read that he objected to the existence of the thread, but the tone in it. I happen to agree with him.

We should be guided in speech as well as action by what we care about, yes, but also a sense of proportion, and compassion, both for the driver (whatever the facts, who deserves the death penalty?), and for those who’ve lost someone they knew and loved.

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