May 20, 2021

No More “Accidents”-New Media Guide Avoids Pedestrian Victim Shaming/Blaming

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.

 

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Comments

  1. I’m of the belief that in most cases it takes two inattentive parties to cause an accident. The purpose of the law is to assign blame, but it should never be used as an excuse to relax your vigilance. Being hit walking across the street in a clearly marked crosswalk with flashing strobe lights is clearly not the pedestrian’s fault, yet the pedestrian still has the power to prevent that kind of accident by not assuming people are going to stop and by watching out for them.

    So to the degree that it tempts people to be less vigilant I’m just a little apprehensive about trying to heap every last iota of blame on the motorist.

    1. I’m not apprehensive at all. The crosswalk is not a level playing field and crashes there are 100% the motorist’s fault. A motorist has to approach a crosswalk with the same caution as a signal and yield to crossing traffic, yet often this does not happen. If a driver plows through a red light and crashes into another car, this is the light-runner’s fault. There’s no apprehensiveness to assign blame and no wondering whether the driver who had the green “somehow shares responsibility”. Same with a crosswalk. It’s not the pedestrian’s legal or moral responsibility employ cat-like reflexes in dodging homicidally-indifferent, scofflaw motorists. There is no debate.

      1. When a driver fails to pay attention at a crosswalk where a pedestrian is crossing, there’s no question that he’s to blame, and the full force of the law should be used against him. But when that happens there are two possible outcomes: the pedestrian sees that the driver is not going to stop and stays out of his way, or the pedestrian marches blithely out in front of him in full compliance with the law and their moral rights and is hit, perhaps injured, possibly killed. Which is the better outcome?

        Let’s not expend all our energy trying to prevent motorists from doing horrible things to the point that we forget to remind pedestrians not to do dumb things.

        1. Like having the temerity to want to go from one side of the street to the other without a car? One can only sympathize with such stupidity.

        2. I think our energies are best directed towards encouraging motorists not to do dangerous things, rather than embarking on an anti-stupidity campaign for the general public. Surely the position that motorist caution must be ramped up at crosswalks is a no-brainer?

          If you wait for a motorist to stop for you at many intersections you will need to bring a good book and some snacks, cuz it is going to be a while. That’s outright bullying (to fail to yield) imo. There should be no acceptance of motorist bullying full stop (pun intended).

  2. We need those here. Unless a confused bird flies into your face while driving or the bottom of your styrofoam cup of hot coffee suddenly falls through, crashes are not accidents. They may be unintended but they are the result of willfully reckless, careless, or distracted driving. Call them “boo boo’s” or “whoopsie daisies” before calling them “accidents”. Far more accurate and informative.

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