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Words matter – don’t blame the victims of pedestrian collisions

Sadly, every day there is a new story in the news about a person who got hit by a car while walking. One common theme in these stories is how the news reports the collision. A recent article from the Columbia Journalism Review talks about the media’s tendency to blame the victims of these crashes in their reporting. She ran into traffic. He was wearing dark clothing. They didn’t use the crosswalk. These are the words used most often in the reporting of pedestrian crashes.

Instead of noting that a pedestrian was not in a crosswalk, ask what could be wrong with the road design that caused the person walking not to use it. Was the driver speeding, driving distracted or failing to follow road signs? Sometimes, the answer is not clear due to a lack of information. If the person struck is killed, then the only person who can provide details on the crash is the driver. This leads to police reports that lack detail and information.

Reporters also tend to write about the car, not the driver. For instance, headlines read “Man hit and killed by car on Jones St.,” which further removes the driver from the collision.

You can read the full article about this reporting problem here.

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