Last Fall I wrote about the death of a woman in Vancouver’s Point Grey commercial area who was mowed down by an inattentive driver while she walked legally across a crosswalk. It was a clear, sunny day at 5:00 p.m.
Sadly The Vancouver Sun wrote in their headline “Elderly woman dies in Point Grey after being struck by a vehicle”.
This woman was fit, loved in the community, still worked and looked after her grandchildren. The description of her as “elderly” appeared to make that avoidable death more palatable, and that description shocked her family members.
The Vancouver Sun kindly retracted some of the language used in their article, but the woman’s family has still been left with the guilty perception that their mother did something wrong. She did not.
We use terms that are helpful to the car driving lobby, and we treat vulnerable street users, those not encased in a metal steering cage, the same way we treat drivers encased in weighty massive vehicles.
That has transpired in language too where we have car accidents instead of crashes, and we talk about cars making right turns and crashing into hapless pedestrians instead of describing it as the inattention, speed or behaviour of the vehicle driver.
Even the term “jaywalker” and “jaywalking” was used to make pedestrians conform to crossing at intersections with four directions of traffic for the vehicle driver’s convenience, not the pedestrian’s. Studies show that unprotected, unrecognized midblock crossings are just as safe as crossing at the intersection. Those early mid-block “jaywalkers” were absolutely right.
The long awaited Media Reporting Guidelines for Road Collisions developed in the United Kingdom is now available at this link.
Every 20 minutes someone is killed or seriously injured on British roads. Much of the reporting around these incidents portrays collisions as unavoidable, obscures the presence of certain actors or omits crucial context as to why crashes happen and what we can do to prevent them.
The guidelines were developed with “road safety, legal, media and policing organisations and individuals, to supplement professional codes of conduct and support the highest standards of reporting in broadcast, print and online.”
You can take a look at the YouTube video below that describes the changes in the guidelines and also gives examples of using other terminology.