As an injury prevention researcher, I am often dismayed at the way in which injuries, risk, and injury prevention efforts are portrayed in the media. I clearly recall being disgusted as an idealistic teenager, having read a newspaper article regarding the untimely death of a peer who had been killed during a police chase. The police involved were vilified, and the article waxed lyrical about how the teen was a pillar of the community, which was a very different representation of reality. Since this time I have taken most media with a grain of salt, preferring to investigate myself, and to make up my own mind, rather than blithely accepting everything that is said, written and printed. I realise this is not the case for everyone, however, and the media has an amazing capacity to influence public opinion, which is highly relevant for injury prevention efforts in particular.
My post today was prompted by the publication of a paper in Accident Analysis and Prevention by Brubacher, Desapriya, Chan, Ranatunga, Harjee, Erdelyi, Asbridge, Purssel, and Pike. Brubacher and colleagues noted that British Colombia introduced new road safety laws focused on impaired driving, speeding and distracted driving in 2010, and examined the focus of the injury-related media during the period May 2010 to December 2012. From an injury prevention perspective, clearly these laws are designed to keep British Colombians safe – not just drivers, but others with whom they share the road such as pedestrians. Pleasingly 51% of reports which mentioned the new laws were supportive, but disappointingly 11% of reports were against the changes: in real terms this means that every tenth article during this time was NOT supportive of these injury prevention efforts.
To maximise our capacity as injury prevention researchers, policy-makers and practitioners, I believe it is vital to work with media as much as possible, clearly and consistently emphasising benefits rather than giving extensive airtime to perceived downsides such as being ‘unfair’ (downsides of which personally I struggle greatly to relate – I think being injured or killed by a distracted, impaired, and/or drunk driver is unfair).