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On American Streets, “Freak Accidents” Are Freakishly Common

This week Sarah has pointed to two bloggers making the case for the removal of both "avid cyclist" and "alternative transportation" from the livable streets lexicon. When it comes to media write-ups of traffic crashes, we nominate "freak accident" to the list of terms slated for obsolescence.

amd_joshua_delarosa.jpgJoshua Delarosa. Photo via Daily News

Monday morning, four-year-old Joshua Delarosa and his mom Romula Fernandez were walking to his preschool in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. As they waited to cross at Broadway and W. 230th St., a livery cab driver swerving to miss a turning DEP truck plowed into a pole, which fell onto Joshua. He was in critical condition as today's papers went to press. His mother was also hospitalized.

Though relaying a witness account that the cab driver was speeding, and noting that the truck driver turned in front of him, the Daily News nonetheless summarized the crash like so:

A Bronx preschooler was clinging to life Monday night after he was struck by a pole in a freak accident on his way to day care with his mom, police and family said.

The News seems to have taken its cue from the cab driver, who holds the truck driver and the pole responsible for Joshua's injuries. The truck driver, in turn, blamed the cab driver. Police and prosecutors are apparently on board with this firing squad theory of traffic justice, as neither driver has been charged with anything. "How are you going to stand at the corner with a baby and get hit? And it's nobody's fault," said Joshua's babysitter.

Last week, also in the Bronx, cyclist Megan Charlop died after a motorist opened a car door in front of her -- a crash the Post chalked up as a "freak accident," though dooring happens often enough that laws against it are ubiquitous.

Despite over 40,000 Americans killed and millions hurt every year, no manner of death or injury is as readily dismissed as an act of god or nature or luck as that involving a motor vehicle. Together, the words "freak accident" further separate deliberate actions from often unintended but no less predictable consequences. How can preventable violence which is incredibly commonplace be described as either?

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