Patrolman Irving Francis ("Irv") Hayden provided rush hour traffic reports on Chicago’s WGN radio in the 1960s. He coined the term “gapers’ block” (cited in print since at least 1962) for traffic congestion caused by vehicles that slow down to “gape” at an accident. Gapers Block was also the title of a Chicago news blog that operated from 2003 until January 2016.
Hayden was killed when his helicopter crashed on August 10, 1971.
Wiktionary: gapers’ block
gapers’ block (plural gapers’ blocks)
1. (chiefly US and Canada, idiomatic) A traffic jam resulting from motorists slowing to look at a motor vehicle collision or other roadside distraction.
This term is especially common in the Chicago vicinity.
Wikipedia: Gapers Block
Gapers Block (Gapers Block Media, LLC) is a Chicago-centric web publication focused on covering Chicago culture under the tag line: “Slow down and check out Chicago”. The site, gapersblock.com, lists local events, aggregates other Chicago blogs and news of local interest and features many topical blogs: A/C (arts and culture), Drive-Thru (food related), Transmission (local music), Mechanics (state and local politics), Tailgate (sports coverage), and Book Club (book club and literary scene coverage).
Conceived in 2003 by Andrew Huff and Naz Hamid, the stuck-in-traffic themed section names, such as Merge (blog, links aggregation), Slowdown (calendar event listings), and Rearview (noteworthy local photos), are inspired by the Chicago-coined term, “gapers’ block”, a synonym (with “gapers’ delay") for rubbernecking. (...) In December 2015, editor and publisher Andrew Huff announced the site would be going on “indefinite hiatus” on January 1, 2016.
2 August 1962, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Highbrows Are Getting the Lowdown: Taking Lessons from Flying Cop” by Hal Foust, pt. 1, pg. 12, cols. 2-4:
The policeman is Irv Hayden, a high school graduate who broadcasts rush hour guidance to motorists from the W-G-N helicopter.
Among the Haydenisms nominated for academic recognition are: “gapers block,” “backup,” “loosening,” and “tight pocket.”
10 February 1963, Chicago (IL) Sunday Tribune, “Copter Cop—an Eye in the Sky” by Larry Wolters, pt. 8-TV, col. 1:
FOUR HOURS every week-day Irv Hayden, W-G-N’s ‘copter cop, is “Someone to Watch Over Me,” as the song says. He’s up there, morning and evening during the busiest times, cruising around reporting by radio on traffic snarls and problems to make driving a little easier and safer.
“Gapers block” is probably the best known one. That’s what Hayden calls a mile-long crawl of motorists who have slowed down to view the details of an accident.
9 October 1965, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Opera Opening” by Eleanor Page, sec. 1, pg. 15, col. 1:
Some of the women must have felt like so many salmon fighting their way upstream as they wormed their way through the “gaper’s block” as the rush hour traffic put it, in the lobby.
11 August 1971, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. 1, col. 1:
WGN Copter Crash;2 Die
Irv Hayden, Pilot Killed in Bellwood
By DAVID SCHNEIDEMAN
A fiery helicopter crash yesterday took the lives of WGN Radio’s “Eye in the Sky,” Patrolman Irwin (Irv) Hayden, and the helicopter’s pilot in a vacant suburban Bellwood lot.
Hayden, 52, of 1536 W. Thoma Av., whose voice was familiar to millions of rush hour motorists during the last 11 years, and Demarest were trapped in the flaming wreckage.
The holdup in traffic caused by drivers slowing down to see what happened in an accident or other event on the road. See also rubberneck.
The wrecked car was cleared from the road but the traffic was still slowed due to the gaper’s block.
by J W August 02, 2005
POSTED 1:34 PM, DECEMBER 8, 2014, BY ANASSERIWGNAM, UPDATED AT 01:33PM, DECEMBER 8, 2014
Irv Hayden was trafficopter reporter attached to the Safety Education Division of the Chicago Police Department. Hayden and his pilot died in a crash in 1971 after their helilcopter struck a utility pole in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood.
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