A recent report shows that the media may be unwittingly influencing how people attribute blame in vehicle crashes.
The study looked at media coverage of collisions between cars and pedestrians or cyclists. It found that the way the press wrote about these incidents deflected the blame away from the car driver.
Words matter when talking about crashes and injuries
Here are some of the things the report highlighted the media need to improve:
- Calling things accidents: Using the term “accident” rather than crash or collision suggest that no one could have done anything differently. It implies no one was at fault.
- Talking about the vehicle, not the person. With the possible exception of self-driving cars, vehicles do not act of their own free will. Talking about a truck crashing through the central barrier deflects from the fact that drivers are meant to be in control of their vehicles. Drivers need to drive. They are not passengers.
- Failing to add context: An article stating a cyclist was injured after being hit by a car may not tell the whole story. Explaining that it was the fifth such accident at the junction this year clarifies that the team who designed the road is partly to blame.
Judges and insurance adjusters read the news like anyone, so media misrepresentation may influence their decisions when dealing with collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists. Apportioning correct blame is essential. It allows you to claim compensation for any harm that another person does you. As a pedestrian or cyclist, you will almost certainly come off worse than the driver hits you. Being blamed for the crash would be adding insult to injury.