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Words have power. It is important to consider the language used and how it may be interpreted by the audience.

The table below outlines terms that should not be used with road traffic incident reports due to the inferences that the audience may make when used.

IncorrectConsequencesSuggested
AccidentImplies the incident happened spontaneously, without reason or human intervention.Incident
Crash
Road trauma
Road Toll
Road Statistics
Crashes impact real people, and people are not numbers.Road deaths
Road fatalities
Road injuries
OffenderLegally, “offender” only applies once a conviction is made.Culpable party
Person/driver in question

Be respectful of everyone involved, including those first on the scene, and their family by upholding the dignity of all individuals involved in the incident.

Avoid sensationalising the crash event by using language which glamorises any behaviours which led to the incident occurring. Eg. reckless driving or mobile phone use.

Avoid using language that negatively generalises the persons’ behaviour to a whole subgroup of people. For example, if it is reported that the motorcyclist was the cause of the incident, other road users may negatively change their interactions with motorcyclists on the road.

Reporting Road Traffic Incidents Resource

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Reporting Road Traffic Incidents – Help Seeking Factsheet

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Reporting Road Traffic Incidents – Poster

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Reporting Road Traffic Incidents: A resource for the media and road safety sector.