Removing biased language

To change our behavior, first, we have to change how we talk.

“An 85-year-old male pedestrian from Lincoln was on foot walking in the roadway. As a result, the operator of the Vibe failed to see the pedestrian in the roadway, causing the front bumper of her vehicle to impact the pedestrian…”[1]

When reporting on fatal incidents involving motorists and pedestrians, such as the example above, language is oftentimes biased. This is an issue because as we acquire information, our brains decipher it in specific ways based on the specific language used. Simply stated, certain words create bias regardless of the intended content of a message.

Let’s break that down further. Most of us drive every day, and can therefore relate to “failing to see a pedestrian.” But realistically, relating to a driver as opposed to a pedestrian doesn’t make much sense. We were walking long before we were driving, so why do we have such a hard time with identifying with people walking? Experts believe that individuals have a hard time relating to pedestrians precisely because of the language used to report incidents.

Thankfully, the public is cracking down on the biases and opinionated phrasing of everything from incident news reports to company instruction manuals.  But the transportation industry still has a long way to go.

As the industry continues to grow and change, it doesn’t necessarily need to change the content of the message, it needs to change how the message is conveyed. Let’s stop talking about “accidents” and start talking about “incidents;” let’s stop talking about pedestrians darting out in front of cars and start talking about distracted driving; let’s stop pedestrian blaming with our words.

You can read more about victim blaming and removing the bias here:

When Covering Car Crashes, be Careful not to Blame the Victim

Making a Case for Transportation Language Reform: Removing Bias


Note. From “Police Investigating Fatal Pedestrian Accident, by staff, 2018, The Beacon,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.