Media Narratives of Pedestrian & Bicyclist-Involved Crashes

May 20, 2020

UC Berkeley SafeTREC is excited to share a new research highlight by graduate student researcher Marta Polovin, "Media Narratives of Pedestrian & Bicyclist-Involved Crashes."

New research highlight focuses on how media and popular discourse factor into traffic safety perspectives and outcomes.

Pedestrian & bicyclist-involved crashes have been increasing throughout the United States. Previous research has shown that media and popular discourse disproportionately blames pedestrians and cyclists for their own injuries and/or deaths, while obscuring the role of motorists in these crashes and ignoring the broader road safety context (like infrastructure and speed limits). Recent research highlights how media framing of these crashes can affect perceptions of cause, influencing public opinion about responsibility and consequences, and demonstrates the need for comprehensive and objective coverage of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes. 

Overview of the Issue

Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of preventable death and injury in the United States and California. In recent years, pedestrian and bicyclist-involved collisions have risen at alarming rates (NHTSA, 2019). Pedestrians and bicyclists are widely recognized to be disproportionately vulnerable to serious injury and death, while also susceptible to victim-blaming and out-sized responsibility for crashes in mainstream media (Magusin, 2017). Given this critical context, researchers have focused greater attention on the role of media framing and language in reporting pedestrian and bicyclist-involved collisions. Goddard et al. write that, “Imbalanced editorial and linguistic patterns,” can contribute to “victim-blaming and distracting from systemic issues and solutions”(Goddard et al., 2019). The language we use to describe crashes can have a serious impact on our collective responsibility to enact safe systems, where all road users are protected. Read more in the full research highlight here.
Page 1 of Media Narratives Research Highlight