Sunday was World Day of Remembrance of Traffic Crash Victims and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) paid her respects with a tweet.
“Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more Americans every year. On World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I’m sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. It’s time to #EndTrafficViolence,” Sen. Warren tweeted.
Katie Herzog, a reporter with The Stranger specializing in contrarian takes capriciously piercing Seattle’s liberal bubble, paid her respects by savaging Warren for daring to care about this issue.
“For a moment, this tweet reminded me of someone suffering from memory issues,” Herzog wrote. “Perhaps she forgot the word ‘accident’ and her brain settled on ‘violence’ instead. But, it turns out, that the term ‘traffic violence’ was not made up by whoever or whatever runs the candidate’s Twitter.”
More than 40,000 people died in crashes on American roads last year for the third straight year. Herzog didn’t mention that. And increasingly it is people outside cars who are paying the price; pedestrian deaths are climbing at the fastest rate. Road deaths outnumber gun deaths, and that’s including suicides, which make up the majority of gun deaths. Herzog hasn’t written a think piece about how gun violence is wimpy liberal snowflake language to my knowledge.
“Apparently there’s been an effort to rebrand car accidents as ‘traffic violence’ going back at least a few years,” she added, before giving us a brief book report on safety advocacy. Herzog’s brief tourist trip into safety advocacy led her to advocates like Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog and Angie Schmitt, who is writing a book on the pedestrian safety crisis.
Schmitt came to town in October and previewed her book for Seattle safe streets advocates. Bear in mind Herzog’s foray into road safety didn’t get this deep, but high among Schmitt’s suggestions to lower road deaths was for the federal government to embrace Vision Zero (as pledges to eliminate road deaths by a certain year are called) and make it a top priority. This model bore fruit in France, and Sen. Warren’s tweet suggests she is open to something like that–and she is currently polling second behind former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination. It’s OK that advocates are excited about this, and personally I think it will help a presidential candidate more than hurt her to lead on this issue.
Ultimately, Herzog comes nearly full circle after her book report and grants we need better language around car crashes, but she still insists it’s bad politics, although it’s not clear why. She likes her politics cynical and lowest common denominator it seems.
“Still, while I am persuaded that the term ‘accident’ is a misnomer—and one that those in criminal justice, law, insurance, and the media should probably avoid—I’m not so sure using the term ‘traffic violence’ will benefit Elizabeth Warren,” Herzog said. “Liberals are already accused of misapplying the term ‘violence’ to everything from speech to getting someone’s pronoun wrong. Calling car crashes ‘traffic violence’ may signal to those in the know that Warren gets it. The question is, what does it signal to everyone else?”
The implication her is that those affected by car crashes is a small subset, but it’s actually a large group of Americans, given the body count and injury rate. Many safety advocates didn’t get involved on a whim but because they saw lives of friends or family members cut short in car crashes. Our own Owen Pickford is an example of this, as is Fucoloro, who had his own reaction to Warren’s tweet and implicitly the backlash to that Herzog stoked.
Herzog never did say what word she does like for car crashes and America’s century of carnage on roads designed for speeding cars built to be more deadly (since it’s more profitable) and governed by laws crafted to shield drivers, car companies, and traffic engineers from responsibility. It’s easier to tear something down than build it up. To be fair, it’s not just her. Many people are in the habit of looking past the 40,000 dead bodies every year, the families torn apart, the hundreds of thousands of people seriously injured, the financial ruin, and environmental calamity. Maybe that’s not violence. Maybe I’m being a snowflake–an “extremely online millennial.” But it sounds pretty devastating to me.
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