Editorial: Crashes are usually no accident

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The driver of this SUV, Elizabeth Dawson, 23, of Surprise, was declared deceased at the scene.

Soft-peddling tragedy is a disservice to our readers

Column By Walt Mares/Gila Herald

‘Gee, he was just driving down the road at 80 miles per hour after he had only a couple of beers and was tuning his radio when a tire blew and he had an accident.’ 

The truth in such a scenario is the driver was speeding, he may have been drunk or at least impaired, he was inattentive to the road and failed to check the condition of the vehicle’s tires. That hardly constitutes an accident. It was a tragedy, and not an accident, waiting to happen.

A common sight in Greenlee and Graham counties is people riding all-terrain vehicles, minus safety gear. Sandals, shorts, and tank tops are worn instead. People say they like the freedom of not being encumbered with a helmet, goggles, gloves, and boots. Unfortunately, there can a high price to pay for that freedom, like gashed scalps, lacerated limbs, or death.

Whether it is on paved or unpaved roads, many ATV riders like to open the throttle and go for it. It is a tragedy, not an accident, waiting to happen. People forget, or never take into account, that ATVs are not toys. They are vehicles and should be driven with great care and caution. Unlike cars or trucks, ATVs have no doors or body frames to absorb the impact of a crash. 

The Gila Herald reports crashes, especially those involving injuries and deaths. Wrecks are not only of interest to the public, it is also the public’s right to know what happens on public streets and roads. It is important to know what caused the crash. Maybe someone will quit flirting with disaster by changing his driving habits after reading about a tragedy that could easily have been avoided. 

We do not carry these stories to increase our website views. When we do write stories about fatal crashes, it is not done with sadistic glee nor do we engage in writing detailed descriptions of blood and gore. We do report information relevant to the cause of the crash and its results. 

Walt Mares: Walt Mares has been in journalism since 1976 and has covered Greenlee County since 1983.

If the law enforcement officers investigating the crash determined that alcohol or other drugs were a factor in the crash, we will include that in the story because it is an important factor. Use or non-use of seat belts is another major factor. We have written numerous accounts of people who escaped injury or death by the use of seat belts. We have also carried many accounts of people who did not wear a seat belt and were ejected from a vehicle and killed. 

We are sometimes accused of being insensitive to the families of those injured or killed in crashes. Did we really need to mention that officers determined alcohol or speed were involved? Yes, we do. Must we run a photo of a mangled vehicle involved in a fatal crash? The purpose of running such photos is to drive home a point of what can happen as a result of inattention, carelessness, and making bad choices.

The accusation of sensationalism is slung at us. We plead not guilty. There is a subject matter that is in itself sensational. The story or photograph speaks for itself. No one adds a titillating spin.

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