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Petition to amend road traffic legislation to refer to 'collisions' and not 'accidents'

Campaigners have called on the Government to change the default language in the Road Traffic Act and other legislation to refer to collisions, not accidents

A petition has been drawn up to ask the Government to amend legislation so that "more constructive language" is used when referring to road traffic collisions.

The UK Government and Parliament petition currently has 1,800 signatures at the time of writing, almost 20 per cent of the way to the point at which the Government will respond to it, and has until 23 August 2022 to collect signatures.

In the description, the creator Lucy Rebecca Harrison says: "The term ‘accident’ continues to be used in legislation and by policy makers. We would like the Government to amend the Road Traffic Act and other legislation to refer to collisions, not accidents (or incidents), and ensure that any future legislation uses this language also.

"We believe ‘accident’ represents a wrongful acceptance that crashes are inevitable and fails to acknowledge that a crime may have taken place. Many of those left bereaved or injured after a crash find the term offensive, especially where culpability is proven and the law has been broken.

"There have been wide calls for more constructive language to be used instead. ‘Accident’ underpins a misunderstanding by society as to the trauma and devastation caused by crashes, it is the language of denial."

If the petition receives 100,000 signatures it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

It comes less than a year after the Road Collision Reporting Guidelines for the media were launched, which encourage reporters to use 'crash' or 'collision' instead of 'accident', and refer to a 'driver' rather than their vehicle.

The guidelines were co-ordinated by journalist and road.cc contributor Laura Laker, who worked alongside the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster.

By replacing the word 'accident' with 'crash or 'collision', the guidelines encourage media to remove the association with chance, and to acknowledge the role of road users in incidents.

The full guidelines can be found here, and below is a summary of the 10 key points:

1. At all times be accurate, say what you know and, importantly, what you don’t know.
2. Avoid use of the word ‘accident’ until the facts of a collision are known.
3. If you’re talking about a driver, say a driver, not their vehicle.
4. Consider the impact on friends and relatives of publishing collision details.
5. Treat publication of photos with caution, including user generated footage or imagery.
6. Be mindful if reporting on traffic delays not to overshadow the greater harm, of loss of life or serious injury, which could trivialise road death.
7. Journalists should consider whether language used negatively generalises a person or their behaviour as part of a ‘group’.
8. Coverage of perceived risks on the roads should be based in fact and in context.
9. Avoid portraying law-breaking or highway code contravention as acceptable, or perpetrators as victims.
10. Road safety professionals can help provide context, expertise, and advice on broader issues around road safety.

At the time the guidelines were published, Professor Rachel Aldred, who worked on the project, said: "The Active Travel Academy is delighted to have developed these guidelines which are based on research and expert input.

"We know much good road collision reporting already exists and we hope that the guidelines will help spread this good practice.

"The research tells us that language matters, as it helps shape how we see and treat others. So for instance referring to drivers rather than only their vehicles helps remind us that behind every vehicle – be it a car, an HGV, a cycle or a motorcycle – is a person making decisions that affect the safety of others."

The petition to amend road traffic legislation to refer to 'collisions' and not 'accidents' runs until 23 August 2022, and can be viewed and signed here...

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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