Caran Johnson was an inveterate follower of police accident reports. Ever since her college years, she had tracked police scanners for local news and traffic incidents — as much, she said, for the police officer banter as for the up-to-date information on what was happening in her city.
In recent years, social media had not only allowed Johnson to be even more informed, but also turned her into something of a local celebrity. Her Twitter following was something of a community service to the Vancouver, Wash. area — she routinely tweeted out up-to-the-minute details on traffic flow and news of collisions on the area’s freeways. So well known was her Twitter feed that the local newspaper, the Columbian, interviewed her about in 2012.
In this interview, she acknowledged that accident report news “gets kind of depressing, especially when there are children involved.” She described herself as a naturally upbeat person, adding that in the face of upsetting news about local traffic, “I try and maintain a positive attitude.”
In addition to monitoring police scanners, Johnson followed the social media accounts of local police. It was through a tweet from the Columbian Metrodesk account, at about 1:40 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2013, that Johnson first learned of an accident on I-205. Continue reading