New guidelines have been produced by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy in collaboration with journalist Laura Laker to help improve reporting on road collisions.

Busy city traffic in motion blur
Credit: Christian Mueller/

The Active Travel Academy and Laura Laker suggest that much of the reporting around road incidents in the UK portrays collisions as unavoidable, obscures the presence of certain actors or omits crucial context as to why these crashes happen and what can be done to prevent them. The guidelines were produced in consultation with road safety, legal, media and policing organisations and individuals to supplement professional codes of conduct and support the highest standards of reporting across all media formats.

Within the guidelines, the researchers have produced ten key clauses which focus on core journalistic principles of accuracy, fairness, non-discriminatory practice and justice. For example, the guidelines urge journalists to avoid the use of the word ‘accident’ until the facts of a collision are known, and using ‘crash’ or ‘collision’ as alternatives leaves the question of who or what is to blame open, pending further details. They also suggest that journalists refer to drivers rather than cars and considering the impact on loved ones when publishing collision details.

The researchers have also included examples of road collision reporting, the details missed that they should consider, and the ways they can improve their reporting through considerations of the language used. By publishing these guidelines, the Active Travel Academy and Laker aim to alter public perceptions when reporting on sensitive matters and create a new industry standard for reporting on road collisions.

Talking about producing the guidelines, Professor Rachel Aldred, Professor of Transport and Director of the Active Travel Academy, said: “‘We are pleased to be launching these guidelines. There is growing evidence that how road collisions are reported can shape attitudes towards road safety and road users. Bad reporting can stigmatise and obscure the underlying causes of crashes, but conversely good reporting can be crucial in helping building public understanding about how we can avoid many of these deaths and serious injuries.”

Learn more about the Media Reporting Guidelines for Road Collisions.

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