The Foundation for Integrated Transport (FIT) has granted a year's funding to help the the UK's first Road Collision Reporting Guidelines reach more people and have a greater impact. When we launched the Guidelines in 2021, with a team at the University of Westminster's Active Travel Academy led by me, Laura Laker, the focus was largely on the media and how we talk about crashes and their aftermath. While impactful, we knew the work would not end there.
As much of the language used in the news comes from wider society, not least emergency services, there is evidence that improving blue light services' communications could have substantial 'downstream' impacts, i.e. improving the way collisions are described in the news media and beyond. News, and to an extent, professional language as a whole, reflects the language we understand and use as a society. However, when this language needs to move on, in order to improve public discourse and how we understand and tackle a societal problem, it's important we all move with it. With five deaths per day on UK roads, and a further 60 serious injuries, this constitutes a serious, and too often devastating, societal problem. We know small changes to how we use language can impact how we view an issue, and its solutions; this is no less the case in road collisions, whose numbers have remained stubbornly consistent for the past decade. While we know traffic collisions are a persistent and devastating problem, too often public discourse around the issue ends in a false equivalence between curbing perceived freedoms on the roads and saving lives.
The Guidelines are an important piece of work, developed in consultation with a broad range of individuals and organisations, and based on research in the field, but they are not set in stone. The continuation of this work is just another part of an ongoing iterative and collaborative process. For the RCRG 'reboot', we will integrate new research that has emerged since the Guidelines' 2021 launch, and further broaden the net to collaborate with as many people and organisations as we can to improve the language we use around road collisions.
Thanks to FIT's Alastair Hanton Memorial Fund, as the Guidelines' author, I will work to collaborate with professionals across the road safety, media and other relevant fields, to develop the Guidelines and better integrate them into the public discourse about road collisions.
To find out more, or to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org