News stories about car crashes suggest victim was at fault
A team of university researchers wrote a paper that examined how news articles assign blame in stories involving crashes with people walking and people riding bicycles. According to CityLab, which summarized the study, news stories overwhelmingly place blame on pedestrians and cyclists. Writers often blame the victims in subtle ways, too.
Researchers note that crashes between cars and people walking or on bicycles are preventable, and shouldn’t be described as “accidents.” The paper refers to pedestrians and cyclists as “vulnerable road users.”
“Coverage almost always obscures the public health nature of the problem by treating crashes as isolated incidents, by referring to crashes as accidents, and by failing to include input from planners, engineers, and other road safety experts,” said the author of the study.
News story terminology blames pedestrians & cyclists
Below are other key takeaways from the study. News stories often use the following terms or phrases:
- “Accident,” which suggests an event is inevitable and no one is at fault, instead of “crash.”
- “A pedestrian or cyclist was hit by a car” instead of “a driver hit a pedestrian.”
- Language that obscures the driver’s role in the crash, such as “a car jumped the curb” instead of stating “a driver drove over the curb.”
Over 25 percent of the 200 news articles examined did not mention the driver at all. Some of the articles described victims “darting” in front of a vehicle, suggesting the person on foot or bicycle was to blame.
Pedestrians & cyclists dying on roads at an alarming rate
The articles rarely mentioned that the number of serious injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists has been increasing at an alarming rate. In 2018, 6,000 pedestrians lost their lives on roads, which is up 3.4 percent from the previous year. Cyclists are dying on roads at an even higher rate. The number of fatalities jumped by 6.3 percent between 2017-2018.
Researchers said journalists should avoid using the term “accident” and instead use “crash” or “collision.” Media outlets also fail to frame crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists as a public health issue. None quoted experts in city planning or traffic engineering.
Ultimately, researchers concluded, journalists are unconsciously victim-blaming through their linguistic choices.
How an Omaha personal injury attorney can help
You may have been injured or a loved one killed while walking or riding a bicycle. You may face significant medical bills and other financial losses related to the crash. A victim may be unable to work or engage in hobbies or activities because of serious injuries.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may downplay the injuries. An insurance representative may offer a small settlement and say it’s not worth it to fight for more compensation. The insurance company may even blame you for causing the crash.
We know the truth. At Ausman Law Firm, our Omaha injury attorneys aggressively fight for clients. We want you to be treated fairly so you get justice and the full compensation you deserve.
For a free consultation with our legal team, contact us online today.