Completed 2019 Research Project

Factors and frames that shape public discourse around road user safety

Principal Investigator
Seth LaJeunesse
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Co-Principal Investigator
Lucinda Austin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Full Report

Interim Report: Shaping the Narrative Around Traffic Injury: A Media Framing Guide for Transportation and Public Health Professionals

Project Slide Deck

Research Brief


In this study of media frames of traffic crashes, the team discovered that broadcast TV news agencies’ Facebook posts featuring the people involved in or witnessing of crash events were associated with more frequent and deeper engagement with the material on Facebook. However, not all road user groups were associated with greater public engagement with crash-featuring news agencies’ Facebook posts. Posts featuring more vulnerable road users, such as older adults, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists were associated less engagement among TV news agencies’ Facebook audiences. Further, a dominant framing of crashes in new agencies’ Facebook posts presented them as phenomena that delay motor vehicle traffic (Class 1 reporting patterns). Such framing holds the potential to orient the public’s attention away from the grim and inequitable reality of road trauma in the United States. Promisingly, however, were study findings that the employment of victim narratives and thematic frames—elements more common in Class 2 reporting patterns—was associated with more engagement with posts. This study illustrates that if the United States is to ameliorate road trauma, members of the news media, and professionals in transportation and public health can and must coordinate their actions. One place to start might be telling inspiring and pragmatic stories about how safety investments can benefit everyone and in copious ways. 


Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Completed
Start Date: 5-15-2019
End Date: 6-30-2021
Contract Year: Year 3
Total Funding from CSCRS: $86,813