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Campaigners urge journalists to avoid reference to road ‘accidents’

Police accidentJournalists have been urged to avoid using the term “road accidents” in a proposed set of new media guidelines on the reporting of traffic collisions.

The University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy has produced the draft guidance, which is being launched for consultation.

One of the four proposed main clauses drawn up for the guidance implores publishers to avoid using the term “accident”, stating “collision, or crash, are more accurate, especially when the facts of the incident are not known”.

It also urges reporters to “avoid using negative generalisations of road users, and must not use dehumanising language or that which may incite violence or hatred against a road user in comment and news coverage”.

The final two clauses call on journalists to “avoid reference to personal protective equipment, such as hi-vis and helmets, except when demonstrably relevant” and to “avoid portraying dangerous or criminal behaviour on the roads, such as speeding, as acceptable, or those caught breaking the law as victims”.

The guidance has been produced with national roads policing, academics and experts in the field, road safety charities, and the National Union of Journalists’ ethics council.

John Ranson from the NUJ’s ethics council, said: “Good reporting should inform. It should help the public understand what has happened.

“And good opinion journalism should provoke debate and challenge the audience.

“But too much of the media’s coverage of road collisions has played into and reinforced lazy generalisations.

“We hope these guidelines will equip journalists to report on road collisions with accuracy and humanity, bringing the same standards of integrity to this topic as to any other.”

Professor Rachel Aldred, director of the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster, said: “Research shows that how crashes are reported shapes how we think about and respond to them, sometimes in quite problematic ways.

“So it is crucial that journalists have guidance helping them with current best practice around road collision reporting, as exists for other issues such as suicide and domestic violence.”

The full guidance and consultation form can be found here.