“SUV drives off bridge, into river” — The Oregonian, Metro section, Page 1, March 27, 2005

There are two types of people in this world: Those who see nothing wrong with the above headline and those who, like me, don’t know whether to laugh at the comedy of the story or cry at the stupidity of the person who wrote the title to the piece. Because SUVs don’t drive themselves, do they?

Now happily the driver, Melissa Borgaard, 31, of Vancouver, was unhurt by her car’s 60-70 foot plunge off the Morrison Bridge into the cold waters of the Willamette River. I’d feel better still if Ms. Borgaard also had the courage to admit her monumental driving error, but alas…

“A downpour made the Morrison Bridge as slick as ice, Melissa Borgaard said.”

Fascinating how none of the hundreds of other drivers that day had a problem with it. Indeed, I can’t remember ever hearing about a car going off the Morrison Bridge.

Along with thanking her rescuers, Borgaard was sure to “tell the world she is a good driver…”

We obviously have different definitions of “good” or, maybe, “driver.”

“…who was aware of the traffic around her…”

Yet The Oregonian says that Borgaard “quickly steered to avoid a nearby car” and overcorrected, sending her Isuzu Trooper off the bridge like it had been “launched from a slingshot.” You be the judge.

“…was not speeding…”

I don’t know what the posted speed limit on the Morrison Bridge is, but the Basic Speed Law prohibits driving at any unsafe speed even if it’s below the speed limit. I’d say doing a half pike in your SUV into the Willamette qualifies as a violation.

“…was alone in the car…”

This, I buy.

“…and was not distracted by talking to her sister, Alicia, on her hands-free phone….”

Studies show that driving while using a cellphone is roughly the equivalent of driving drunk and, importantly, that hands-free phones make no difference whatsoever.

The bottom line problem for me is the pervasive denial of responsibility in these statements. As much as we may wish to spare the feelings of the hapless woman who found the Morrison Bridge “as slick as ice” when other drivers apparently did not, she is the one who drove her vehicle, not vice versa. Combined with her statement about being a good driver who was not speeding and who “was not distracted by talking to her sister…on her hands-free phone…” we’re almost left to wonder who is responsible for the Isuzu Trooper plunging into the Willamette.

A hint for Oregonian headline writers: It’s not the SUV.