Publication Details

Shaping the narrative around traffic injury: A media framing guide for transportation and public health professionals

Type: Paper

Author(s): Keefe, Elyse; LaJeunesse, Seth; Heiny, Stephen

Publisher: Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety


Publication Date: Oct-2022

Edition: 2nd

Number: R29

Address: Chapel Hill, NC

Abstract: Professionals in transportation and public health share a goal of addressing the enduring and tragic issue of injury and death on our roadways. Between 36,000 and 43,000 people have died in traffic crashes in the United States each year since 2016 (U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Safety Administration, 2022) and motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of unintentional death and injury in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Further, significant racial disparities exist, with BIPOC individuals making up a disproportionate percentage of road deaths (Governors Highway Safety Association, 2021). Despite this, calls to improve road safety are not particularly widespread. However, news media reporting on traffic injury can influence the way members of the public think about the problem. Working with local journalists presents an opportunity to help reshape how people think about the problem and what solutions they would support.News media “frames” convey to readers and viewers what is most important in a story. For example, in covering traffic crashes, journalists most often tell us who was involved in a crash and who may have been responsible for the incident. Left unsaid is contextual information, for example, about the roadway and land use, or information about the prevalence, trends, and inequities of roadway injury in a town, city, or state. Professionals who design these environments and know about injury prevention—transportation planners, engineers, and public health professionals—can fill this gap in reporting. Improved media reporting of crashes could lead to an increased awareness of this widespread problem and greater support for effective solutions to address the root causes of road violence.