Media guidelines on reporting road collisions opens for consultation

Posted on: September 30, 2020 by Claire Meadows

A set of proposed guidelines on how media organisations should report on road traffic collisions has been published and is open for consultation.

The draft Road Collision Reporting Guidelines have been produced by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy and include recommendations that journalists avoid the word “accident” and use “crash” or “collision” instead. Publishers should also acknowledge the role of drivers in such incidents.

The guidelines have been drafted in collaboration with representatives from national roads policing, legal, academic and media experts, the National Union of Journalists’ ethics council, RoadPeace, Cycling UK, and has the support of active travel and road safety organisations. Alternative press regulator IMPRESS has also advised on the guidelines.

With “four over-arching guidelines”, the proposals call on journalists to avoid using the term “accident”, instead stating that “collision, or crash” are more accurate, especially when the facts of the incident are not known. Other proposals include a requirement for publishers to avoid using negative generalisations of road users and avoid what it refers to as “dehumanising language” or that which may “incite violence or hatred against a road user in comment and news coverage”. The guidelines also call on publishers to avoid reference to personal protective equipment, such as hi-vis and helmets, except when demonstrably relevant. Publishers should also avoid portraying dangerous or criminal behaviour on the roads, such as speeding, as acceptable, or those caught breaking the law as victims.

The guidelines are open for consultation until 8 November 2020. Responses will be reviewed by a working group before the guidelines are officially launched at the first Road Collision Reporting Guidelines at the Active Travel Media Awards on 26 November 2020.

The guidelines and consultation can be found here. The Society of Editors will be responding to the consultation in due course.