WHO issues guidelines for reporters to cover road crashes

The Road Safety Training initiative of the World Health Organization focuses on training journalists on how to effectively report road crashes which can effectively help in reducing the onset of road accidents and related deaths. This month, the WHO arranged a road safety reporting workshop for Asian reporters. There were many reporters from developing countries who attended the workshop and shared their experiences with other reporters. According to the WHO, over 1.3 million people lost their lives in roast accidents every year. Road crashes are the largest reason behind deaths in children and adults belonging to the age group 5-29 years old. Journalists and the media play an important role in reporting and covering these road accidents which helps people understand the situation which led to the road crash so that people themselves can avoid these mistakes in the future to avoid road accidents. Hence, the quality of reporting plays a major role in accurate and precise coverage of road accidents, which is always missing in low and middle-income countries. In low and middle-income countries, the media is not that free and developed and also lacks significantly in terms of the technological resources to report any news efficiently.

Low and middle-income countries are often limited by the lack of governance which makes their roads extremely unsafe to drive on. In developed countries, there are various technologies and road safety protocols such as high-class traffic lights and traffic indicator systems, AI and machine learning algorithms to manage road traffic, and road surveillance cameras to monitor road traffic and road accidents. But in the case of low and middle-income countries, many countries cannot afford such high-end technologies because of their weak economies and low purchasing power of people. Because of this, it becomes almost impossible for road safety authorities to monitor the roads in low and middle-income countries. People having low purchasing power also makes it difficult for them to fix vehicle flaws in time, which are often necessary indicators that are installed in vehicles to keep the roads safe for other drivers. Because of such conditions, the WHO’s data regarding deaths caused by road crashes mainly included low and middle-income countries.

Journalism in such countries regarding road accidents is harder because of the lack of technology and road surveillance systems. Hence, the media often has to rely on data from the police which is not as reliable as the actual surveillance footage. David Shelton, the Senior Transport Specialist at the Asian Development Bank, who was also the speaker at the workshop, said that one should ask for the source of the data and the team handling that data while reporting any road accident. This is mainly because, in many low and middle-income countries, this data comes from police, who often focus on finding the culprit of road accidents rather than the actual cause that led to the accident. Because of this, such data is not that useful in reporting road accidents. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General wrote that instead of focusing on road accidents, one should focus on safe mobility systems, which will reduce the frequency of road crashes and deaths caused due to crashes.