Journalists and media practitioners have been urged to increase their commitments as road safety advocates and adopt new approaches in journalistic reporting to help reduce road traffic deaths and injuries in the country.
Ms Mavis Obeng-Mensah, Communication Officer, Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative Global Road Safety (BIGRS Ghana), speaking at a Road Safety Journalism Training Workshop in Accra, said with the increasing number of deaths and injuries because of road crashes,
was worrying,hence the need for an enhanced and strategic approaches in stemming the tide.
The two-day training, organised by BIGRS through Vita Strategies, was meant, among other objectives, to improve media coverage of road safety issues and the role of editorial framing for the perception of guilt and solutions to road safety issues.
She said journalists and media organisations needed to understand the safe systems approach to road safety and recognise best reporting practices for enhanced coverage with greater impact.
She said the way journalists wrote and spoke about road safety influenced how the audience perceived what happened; who was responsible and what should be done in response.
The Communications Officer said effective road safety reporting could help change the discourse about road safety as a public health issue and demonise the prevalence of these tragic events in communities which especially claimed the lives of many.
She noted that it was vital to avoid the use of the word “accident” and rather use “road crashes or collision”, and said road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths were preventable and using the word “accident” conveyed an undue sense of inevitability and led the audience to interpret those events as unavoidable or the result of bad omen or destiny.
She called on reporters to highlight the human element of crashes, saying headlines focused on vehicles involvement rather than the affected people in crash reporting, leaving out people and their actions from the story of the crash and distancing the readers from the situation.
Ms Obeng-Mensah said studies on media coverage of road safety had found that when pedestrians or cyclists were injured or died in road crashes, responsibility for the crash was often attributed to the victim and not the drivers.
She indicated that by focusing the discourse on the victims and their actions, whether they used a pedestrian crossing for example or not, reporters de-emphasize the responsibility that government and drivers had to set, enforce, and obey road safety regulations such as speed limits.
Mr Samuel Danquah, Engineer and Road Design and Transportation Coordinator, BIGRS Ghana, said the Safe System Approach, which was key in reducing road crashes, aimed to eliminate fatal and serious injuries for all road users through a holistic view of the road system that first anticipated human mistakes and kept impact energy on the human body at tolerable levels.
He said speed was the most critical risk factor, even though there had been little progress on speed management, adding that a five per cent in average speed led to approximately a 10 per cent increase in injury crashes.
“A five per cent increase in average speed leads to approximately a 20 per cent increase in fatal crashes.”
Mr Ebenezer Baido, Surveillance Coordinator, BIGRS Ghana, speaking to an Accra Metropolitan Assembly Road Safety Annual Report for 2019 to 2020, said deaths among vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, bicyclist, motorcyclist, accounted for 76 per cent and 85 per cent of deaths in 2019 and 2020.
That, he said, was a typical urban pattern and highlighted the need to prioritise the protection of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, adding that out of the 136 in 2020, 56 per cent of them were pedestrians.
As a solution, he said there was a need for adequate consideration and responsibility on the part of pedestrians, drivers, and other road users, adding that enforcement, engineering as a safe system approach, education and shared responsibility of all stakeholders were key in nipping the phenomenon in the bud.