It matters how we talk about traffic deaths and serious injuries.
These discussions are often informed by news media coverage. The Vision Zero Network has some excellent background on these issues, as well as guidance on language choices and how to add context to stories about traffic violence.
From the Vision Zero Network guidance:
- Use the term “crash” or “collision,” not the term “accident” in describing incidents. The latter term implies no control or agency over situations, which is often not the case. Also, this is recommended AP style, though often overlooked.
- Avoid blaming the victim, or the person hit in a crash. Describing a person hit while walking as “wearing dark clothes” is inappropriate in the same vein as describing the victim of a sexual assault as “wearing a short skirt.”
- Recognize and point out the common patterns of crashes, rather than portraying them as isolated incidents. For example, there are often consistent themes related to poor roadway design or conditions, or high speeds, that show the fuller context of the systems, or environments, people are moving in.
- Use language that appropriately describes people involved, rather than de-humanizing actions. For instance, automobiles do not act on their own volition, ex: “a car hit a person walking.” More appropriately, this was “a person driving a car hit a person walking.”
For more about how media can influence the conversation about traffic crashes:
- The research: How news reporting about traffic crashes influences public perceptions – Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives Journal
- Journalists: Here’s how to produce less horrible stories about pedestrians and cyclists getting killed – Medium
- Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting – Transportation Research Record
- How news reporting about traffic crashes influences public perceptions – Pedal Love