Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting Academic Article uri icon


  • The World Health Organization characterizes traffic deaths as a preventable health epidemic. Despite the scale of the problem, this issue has not led to a concerted call to action. Why not? The field of media studies offers potential insight. Not only does media coverage help determine which issues merit attention, coverage also shapes how issues are framed. The aim of this paper is to examine local news coverage of vehicle crashes involving someone walking or biking. To that end, this paper used content analysis of 200 local news articles to answer the research questions: (1) How do articles apportion blame between vulnerable road users (VRUs) and drivers?; (2) To what extent do articles frame crashes as a public health issue? The results reveal that local news coverage tends to shift blame toward VRUs and away from drivers. Coverage almost always treats crashes as isolated incidents, obscuring the public health nature of the problem. This pattern of coverage likely contributes to the limited public outcry about pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. Journalists can counteract these patterns by subtly altering their coverage. Planners can assist these efforts by making their expertise readily available to journalists. These simple changes would help the public identify links between seemingly isolated events and increase public pressure to reduce road deaths.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 171.76

author list (cited authors)

  • Ralph, K., Iacobucci, E., Thigpen, C. G., & Goddard, T.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Ralph, Kelcie||Iacobucci, Evan||Thigpen, Calvin G||Goddard, Tara

publication date

  • February 2019