In one of the more flagrant misunderstandings of a news story in recent months, Cleveland.com and other local outlets have pounced upon a drug-induced driving fatality as an opportunity to explore the safety concerns of electric scooters.
Late Saturday night, a 19-year-old driving a Chevy Cruze at more than double the posted speed limit (25 mph) and so heavily under the influence of heroin that he was reportedly passed out when police arrived, struck and killed a 21-year-old female on E. 9th Street downtown.
The fact that the woman was riding an electric scooter should have been incidental. But it has become the central talking point in the tragedy’s aftermath.
See how other cities have regulated the influx of electric scooters, Cleveland.com invited its online readers in one headline
. “What are the dangers of electric scooters,” asked another
. Its Tweet announcing live coverage of the incident was rightfully greeted with consternation and open hostility.
The scooters are hot news, and other outlets have likewise made the victim’s mode of transportation central to their coverage. In WCPN’s brief news account Monday morning, host Amy Eddings spent much of the story recapping the recent introduction of Bird scooters to Cleveland streets. In the final line, she noted that the driver of the vehicle (that is, the car) Saturday night was thought to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Reporters have been careful to mention that the city of Cleveland isn’t even sure if the scooter was a Bird. Despite the "scooter craze," the model that the woman was riding was identified as an “Icon G” electric model and was rented from Ray’s Scooter and Bike Rental downtown, known for its Scoot-E bikes
. Cleveland.com, which dutifully sought comment from the California-based Bird regardless, noted that “the woman killed Saturday is the first reported death on an electric kick scooter.”
Reporters did not, evidently, seek comment from Chevrolet, Budweiser, MADD or even ODOT about traffic fatalities involving drunk or high drivers. We know, on a related noted, that distracted driving was responsible
for 3,450 deaths nationwide in 2016, and caused more than 14,000 crashes just in Ohio last year.
Cleveland.com reporter Adam Ferrise posted a story Monday
noting that the 19-year-old driver, Scott McHugh, had snorted heroin in a grocery store parking lot shortly before the crash.
The victim’s mode of transit should have been immaterial. She was struck by an intoxicated, underage driver and ejected onto the pavement. She would have been subject to a similar fate if she'd been on a bicycle or roller blades. She was taken to MetroHealth and pronounced dead after 10 p.m. The county medical examiner later identified her as Jenasia Summers, of Cleveland. The 19-year-old McHugh was taken to county jail and booked for aggravated vehicular homicide.
One of the more annoying consequences of the crash — which is a tragedy in about 14 different ways — is that downtown Councilman Kerry McCormack had just met with Bird and other city officials last week to negotiate a temporary agreement whereby the dockless electric scooters can stay. The city initially sent a letter suggesting that the scooters could not be placed on sidewalks without permits and would be impounded if not removed.
Due to the irresponsible media coverage, which has implied that the scooter itself was responsible for Saturday's crash, local officials and the public will now be overly concerned about the wrong issue.
Imagine how tone-deaf and irresponsible Cleveland.com would rightfully seem if, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, it sent a reporter to the scene of the crime and asked, absent all other context, if short skirts were cause for concern.