Planes do not slam into the ground accidentally, they crash. However, such language is not always used for road smashes: they are often described as “accidents,” as though no one was at fault. Campaign groups have been lobbying for neutral road-incident vocabulary for many years—“crash, not accident” is a common mantra—and now new research has demonstrated that thanks to the leading language used in media reporting, blame for road smashes is often placed on victims.
“Simple changes to how we talk about crashes can help move the needle on public support for safer streets,” said Kelcie Ralph, one of the academics behind the research.
She and colleagues elsewhere in the U.S. presented nearly a thousand readers with three “news reports” of an incident involving a motorist hitting a pedestrian, and were asked who might be to blame and what action, if any, the authorities ought to take.