Motorcyclists and the media: addressing the imbalance in road accident reports

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Published on 29 February 2016 by Tom Wadlow

What can be done to address the issue of media portrayal of motorcyclists in reports on accidents and other incidents?

Last year, BMF Government Relations Executive Graeme Hay attended a meeting with the Ministry of Justice about this problem...

I am sure that we have all read local newspaper reports about a road collision, in which someone on a motorcycle has been injured – or worse – and the sentencing of the driver of the other vehicle seems incompatible with what has happened? I hope that you or your family have not had the awful experience of being involved in such a situation but if you have, I am very sorry.

The whole subject is one of seemingly weird or unusual rules, language and considerations being used to produce something few of us can understand. I was very interested to be invited to meet with staff of the Ministry of Justice to look at this subject, representing motorcyclists and it seemed to me that you might be interested to know what the Ministry of Justice team were interested in?

The key to this area seems to be the understanding that drivers are prosecuted for their actions – what they did or failed to do and not the outcome of this. If folk were prosecuted for the outcomes the result would be madness with outrageously dangerous actions receiving small fines and a momentary lapse, which results in a death ending with a long detention.

Motorcycle point of view blur

The team at the Ministry of Justice were very interested to note that motorcyclists share the view of cyclists and pedestrians around “Vulnerability” but distinguish motorcyclists as a road user group which undertake far more training than other to get onto the road and participate far more widely in additional training, such as “BikeSafe”, RoSPA and IAM etc.

Motorcyclists are more willing to accept it is us, in some cases, contribute to our own downfall – the other vulnerable road user groups just seem to seek to “Blame the other bloke” on every occasion.

What concerns the Ministry of Justice team is that the newspapers and other media areas seem to always report collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists as a natural “Victim”. In the case of motorcyclists we are so often reported at this very early stage against a backdrop of assumptions including speed or aggressive behaviour.

This does establish a mind-set amongst all readers and listeners to such reports that a person riding a motorcycle may be less worthy than when walking, driving or cycling. I know that you will recognise this, share the sense of frustration and it is something that we may never fully address.

A yellow motorcycle and a blue motorcycle ride towards the camera

I cannot describe too much more of the details of our lengthy meeting as I was asked not to but I report this much to you, dear member, as a clear encouragement that work is underway in the Ministry of Justice to raise awareness of these attitudes where it matters. This work will go on for some time to come and I will continue to support the motorcyclist’s position in the mind of the Ministry of Justice.

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