Always Scared: Streetsblog NYC wins inaugural Casey Feldman Award for Transportation Safety Reporting
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By Hannah Stewart (Comm’19)
Illustration by Martin Schapiro for Streetsblog NYC, used with permission
In New York City, walking to school is dangerous. According to data from nearly one million car crashes between July 2015 and November 2021, there are nearly two crashes per hour, and every two hours one person is injured near city schools. News reports identified at least 24 children who had been killed.
This data is troubling, and became the focus of Streetsblog NYC’s story “Always Scared: Dangerous Streets Outside City Schools Threaten Children” by Jesse Coburn, which won the 2022 Casey Feldman Award for Transportation Safety Reporting.
The reporting award honors Casey Feldman, who was killed in 2009 by a distracted driver while attending Fordham University as a journalism student. It is sponsored by EndDD.org, which was created by the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to end distracted driving, and by the journalism department at the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information.
Award judge and Daily Camera reporter Mitchell Byars called it, “a detailed look into traffic safety for a vulnerable population, school children, that also takes into account the role race and economic status play in transportation safety problems.” He also noted the skilled use of data, visuals and “first-hand accounts of the dangers these kids face.”
In addition to Byars, this year’s judges included: Kasey Cordell, communications officer at the LOR Foundation; Esteban L. Hernandez, reporter at Axios Denver; and Paul S. Voakes, dean emeritus at CU Boulder.
“Always Scared” took six months to investigate, and Coburn and Streetsblog analyzed more than 900,000 car crashes, conducted more than 50 interviews and reviewed hundreds of pages of municipal and legal documents.
In May 2022, Streetsblog published the story, which included thorough data analysis and emotional anecdotes from car crash survivors. Not only does it detail the frequency and severity of crashes, but the piece also investigates the apparent lack of change from the city in response to the injuries and deaths.
Hernandez said "Always Scared" was “the most impressive in my eyes because they compiled the data and did the additional on the ground reporting, which is a remarkable achievement.”
Cordell said the story was deeply reported “with thoughtful analysis and compassionate storytelling. The charts and maps demonstrate the scale of the problem, while the poignant profiles of those whose lives have been forever changed as a result of these dangers call for change.”
Two honorable mentions were awarded this year. Marin Cogan’s story for Vox, “The Deadliest Road in America,” investigates how urban planning is often at odds with safety, particularly on this stretch of the US-19 in Pasco County.
In his review of Cogan’s story, Byars noted, “This story uses data, graphics, photos and personal stories to expand a very detailed and nuanced examination of one very deadly road into an examination of nationwide transportation safety issues that arise in our car-centric society.”
The second honorable mention is transportation reporter Mike Lindblom’s story for The Seattle Times: “Seattle’s Most Dangerous Light-Rail Stretch — and How to Make It Safer.” Lindblom starts by telling the story of two baseball fans who were fatally hit by a light-rail train. He then evaluates factors that led to light-rail incidents and offers proposed solutions.
In his comments, Voakes said Lindblom conducted great data analysis and “went the extra mile to look at systems around the country.”
Cogan and Lindblom were each awarded a $500 cash prize, while Coburn received a first-place prize of $2,000.