Walking Roadway Deaths: Quick Blame but Lasting Psychological Effects

The past weekend saw yet another person killed walking Albuquerque’s roadways. As quite often happens, the initial (as well as almost always final) media report neatly tidies things up with Albuquerque Police Department serving as de facto judge, jury, and executioner:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pedestrian died in an incident near Montgomery and Carlisle. Police say the pedestrian was killed in the crosswalk Saturday morning.

Officials say the driver was not at fault. The male pedestrian used the crosswalk improperly according to officers. Roads in that area were closed for some time as an investigation took place.

That area has since been reopened.

There you have it. No full investigation needed. No toxicology report required. Blame firmly affixed and we can dust off our mental hands in satisfaction. Yeah, a crosswalk was involved, but the pedestrian “used the crosswalk improperly” according to police and the living (the walker quite obviously not able to chime in with his thoughts); hence/Ergo/QED we don’t have to worry our pretty little heads over this matter ever again.

Which brings to mind the very recent case involving Hall of Fame Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim. As you probably know from myriad media reports, Coach Boeheim last week accidentally killed a man walking a Syracuse area interstate. The details are complex, but it is clear Coach Boeheim was not at fault in any way. It was a tragic accident, not to be confused in the quickness of this determination with the ABQ incident noted above.

What brings these cases together, as well as almost all of the sharply spiking incidents of deaths to those walking our roadways, is the psychological effect on those drivers not at fault. Quickie ABQ police “investigations” and facile media reports almost never include mention of this mental anguish.

Having looked at police crash reports and eventual investigations on 2017-2018 ABQ pedestrian fatalities, all 46 of them, one consistently reads report passages in which drivers involved are “shaken up,” displaying various effects of trauma. Officers and others on-site often address this, asking if the driver might be helped by a counselor or other mental health professional.

jan 2019 tru
Thirteen New Mexico walking deaths in January, reports UNM’s Traffic Research Unit. Thirteen instances of drivers still living with these horrors.

Like other mental traumas, this effect does not simply go away, yet one almost never sees/reads reference to the immediate or lingering psychological impact. The case of Coach Boeheim is thus very different, due to his celebrity, and offers us a chance to far better understand that, blame or no, the spike in walking roadway deaths is a health crisis that goes beyond “using the crosswalk improperly” or “wearing dark clothing at night.”

Coach Boeheim gave a press conference last Thursday on the subject of the incident, one turned into sound bites for literally thousands of media reports. If you have a few minutes, however, watch the first seven minutes of the entire press conference. Watch those seven minutes before Coach Boeheim has to go back to answering questions about basketball.

An intelligent, experienced public speaker, Coach Boeheim is able to, with effort, express what the great preponderance of drivers who hit those trying to walk our roadways must feel. He also points out, even those the incident is fresh in all our minds, that this tragedy will stay with him as long as he lives.

It’s human nature for us to not really pay attention to much unless a celebrity is involved. That’s sad and messed up if you think about it; nevertheless, here’s a solid-gold chance for us all to think, really think, about the mental effects that come with hitting/killing somebody with our vehicle.

Regardless of fault.



One thought on “Walking Roadway Deaths: Quick Blame but Lasting Psychological Effects

  1. “The male pedestrian used the crosswalk improperly…”. So, how exactly do you use a crosswalk improperly? Sounds more like it couldn’t be determined what caused the crash, but how could it have been the driver’s fault? Seems like someone went against a red light, but since there was only one witness left it must have been the pedestrian.


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