Coverage of motor vehicle crashes with injuries in U.S. newspapers, 1999-2002

J Safety Res. 2008;39(5):477-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2008.08.001. Epub 2008 Sep 26.


Problem: The aims of the study were to evaluate information on motor-vehicle crashes with injuries provided in newspaper reports and to assess the frequency of thematic and episodic reporting of motor-vehicle crashes.

Method: The study used Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) derived variables to code a nationally representative sample of U.S. newspaper reports of motor-vehicle crashes from 1999-2002. A total of 473 newspaper reports of motor-vehicle crashes with injuries were included. Information on the crash event, people involved, and vehicles was extracted. The reports were coded for episodic and thematic news framing.

Results: A majority of newspaper reports used episodic framing. The majority of reports included information on the type of crash, but characteristics about people and vehicles were rarely reported.

Discussion: Lack of information in newspapers makes them an incomplete source from which to influence public perceptions and attitudes.

Impact on industry: This provides an opportunity for news print media to improve public health content.

Impact on industry: Newspapers represent an important source of public information; they are, however, an incomplete source [Voight, B., Lapidus, G., Zavoski, R., & Banco, L. (1998). Injury reporting in Connecticut newspapers. Injury Prevention, 4, 292-294.; Baullinger, J., Quan, L., Bennett, E., Cummings, P., & Williams, K. (2001). Use of Washington state newspaper for submersion injury surveillance. Injury Prevention, 7, 339-342]. To increase the accuracy of information provided to the public through media sources, there is a need for increased communication between public health professionals and reporters. The results of this study raise concerns about the contents of motor-vehicle crash information provided in newspapers and suggest that newspapers do not provide information to allow public perception to be in accord with the importance of motor-vehicle crash injuries and health promoting actions to reduce risk of injury. More balanced and detailed information in newspapers would provide an opportunity for news print media to improve public health programs and public perception about the impact of motor-vehicle crashes on safety for all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information*
  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Newspapers as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States
  • Young Adult