I built "Vision Zero Reporting" (https://visionzeroreporting.com), a tool to detect editorial anti-patterns in local news coverage of car crashes.
Maybe you've noticed that local news articles about car crashes, especially those that involve "vulnerable road users" (VRU) such as bicyclists and pedestrians, tend to employ language that seems to blame the victim or only discuss the incident as an isolated event, rather than in context that crashes are preventable and are caused by specific reasons.
This tool is meant to help news publishers check their articles and learn the anti-patterns to avoid.
Here's a brief explanation of the problems my tool checks for:
1. Focus - Readers find the focus/subject of the sentence more in control of the situation, and hence more blameworthy (e.g. "A pedestrian was struck by a driver" VS "A driver struck a pedestrian").
2. Agency - Some sentences lack an agent altogether, which places more blame on the recipient (e.g. "A bicyclist was hit." VS "A bicyclist was hit by a driver.")
3. Object-based reference - Pedestrians and bicyclists are almost always referred to using people-based language, but drivers are referred to using object-based language 81% of the time  (e.g. "The vehicle fled the scene" VS "The driver fled the scene"). This language personifies and gives agency to vehicles rather than their drivers.
4. Accident - Accident is the most-used term in articles to describe the incident (47%). This term is being phased out by some news agencies because the word implies a sense of inevitability or that it happened purely by chance, when we know why car crashes happen and can take preventative action.
5. Framing - (still in beta) Articles employ an "episodic" frame, meaning they describe crashes as isolated incidents. Only 6% (!) of articles use "thematic" framing , meaning they contextualize the event by discussing road design, number of recent crashes in the area, quote experts, educate readers about road safety initiatives, etc.
6. Counterfactual - (still in beta) Counterfactuals are true statements, but imply the outcome could have been changed had the victim acted differently. While reporters may see these statements as sticking-to-the-facts, we've discovered in 700+ manually-annotated articles that counterfactuals almost always shift blame toward the victim (A bicyclist was struck; he wasn't wearing a helmet. It was dark outside, the biker wasn't wearing reflective clothing, and the driver told police he didn't see the bicyclist until it was too late.) Notice that all of these statements may be true, but goes hand-in-hand with the Framing issue discussed above: the bicyclist was hit, but is that because there is no protected bike lane? It was dark outside, but is road visibility a municipal obligation?
I'm looking for constructive feedback to make this tool better!
My work is based primarily on the following research papers (and I've already shown the tool to the authors - they loved it!):
If the intent is to raise public awareness and to put pressure on leadership to make roads generally safer, why do almost all the corrections follow a pattern of shifting blame from the individual pedestrian onto the individual driver? Many of the suggested fixes are just their own form of counterfactual - they're facts, sure, but they don't contribute to public understanding of _why_ the crash happened.
The examples of removing counterfactual outright and including thematic framing (focusing on road conditions, frequency of crashes, and aggregate statistics that tell the story of how often crashes occur) seem to be the best set of suggestions for correcting public perception on road safety. Not making sure the public knows this _one specific driver_ hit a pedestrian, rather than their car.
Don't take the above as excusing bad road design.
The test was difficult, picky, and the things that they were looking for were not necessarily correlated with safe, strictly legal driving. (e.g., target speed in a 50KPH zone (urban area) was 53, not 49, and to not approach that with conviction made you a too timid driver.)
And despite the intensive tests -- drivers here are crap. On the dog walk tonight, there were 3 cases of drivers failing to yield at crosswalks.
We've got rural roads that are slightly more than one car wide, some with grass growing down the middle, and are signposted for 80kph. We've got motorways at 120kph.
If the USA had Germany's rate, 16939 lives would've been saved.
And you think that's "fine"?
Here's where I got my info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-r...
You can see the effect even more when it comes to recreational hobbies and sports. Americans don't really just walk or bike around. Walking and biking/cycling are usually specific activities, so most Americans buy special exercise clothing or exercise gear to go (by car) to specific spots friendly for walking and cycling to perform their recreational activities and come back. Walking is still a popular casual activity in urban areas but in a lot of suburban areas there aren't even the sidewalks in place to make it safe to walk around. Most Americans only really dress/prepare for the walk from their house to the car and from the car to the store/office/destination, then back if they're not specifically out to perform their recreational athletic hobbies.
(One thing the narrator mentions is shade: Keep in mind that Houston is a hot city, with temperatures often above 30c during the summer.)
But that's not unusual at all. In fact, where I grew up in Pennsylvania many roads had literally no sidewalk.
Let's say I want to walk into town where my parents live. I'd be going down this road (you can follow along on street view):
That's a narrow road, but don't let it fool you. People there drive fast and they're in a hurry. They certainly do not expect to see someone trudging along the berm of the road. Or more likely in a muddy ditch beside the road, because Pennsylvania is wet and that's the safest way to not get hit by a car.
If you walk along into North Wales, PA, pay attention to the pedestrian infrastructure. Where are there sidewalks? Are there crossing signals? How would you know when it's safe to cross? Now imagine doing this in the evening (note: there are no streetlights).
And I live in a city where the zoning can be described as "we'll rubber stamp literally anything that isn't hazmat processing we're desperate for money". And this is a ~150yo neighrborhood in a multi-hundred year old city in the northeast, not some socal dump that was built out long after the advent of cars.
Yes, because the number of stores in that 30 minutes is so low. Most of them are also setup for cars, including selling quantities that assume a car to get home.
(Besides that, a 30 minute walk can be inconvenient- the stuff you're buying might not support being carried for 30 minutes. I tried to get a friend to consider giving up a car-based life and they asked me how they're going to move their stuff for LAN parties and gun hobby related activities.)
OK, but you need to first decide whether the state should require a license to drive in the first place. And if it requires a license, whether this license should be required to identify you or not. Because you are going to have a hard time with a licensing system in which the license cannot identify the holder.
Maybe it shouldn't. That's a useful and honest discussion to have.
What is not a useful or honest discussion is whether we should require it but not really enforce the requirement.
If you require it, then you should enforce it, and you should not refuse to enforce it because you think that enforcing it does more harm than good. If it's really true than enforcement does more harm than good, then don't require it.
But this idea that group X should meet some standard, but group Y can meet a lower standard, is lawless and discriminatory. It violates the principle of equal treatment before the law, and it destroys the willingness of society to abide by laws. It creates a population of lawbreakers that can be the victim of selective enforcement, e.g. to punish enemies, while it rewards friends by promising to not enforce the laws. This is basically institutionalized corruption in the sense of the old machines like Tammany Hall. It's when you get to a situation where government can destroy enemies by deciding to enforce laws against them, because there are so many laws whose enforcement is arbitrary.
That goes for every aspect of controlling our borders and deciding who can come here. If you want to make an argument for open borders, go ahead. There is legit intellectual case to make for that.
But don't say, well, for one group we should enforce things but for another group we shouldn't, because then law abiding people end up waiting for years (my parents waited for 10 years to be able to come to the U.S. legally) while others just overstay their tourist visa (my mother's relatives did that).
That's discriminatory and lawless, and sets you up for a system in which those who obey the law are recognized as suckers and forced to subsidize those who do not.
> If you require it, then you should enforce it, and you should not refuse to enforce it because you think that enforcing it does more harm than good.
There’s a third situation: that enforcement is difficult. The last time I was pulled over was 19 years ago. If that situation had resulted in my license being revoked, I could have continued driving without my license for the next 19 years with no consequences (maybe registering my car under a family member’s name). But regardless, how would this be enforced on a wide scale? The authorities don’t have the resources to check that every person behind a wheel is carrying a license. So, these checks generally occur after an infraction.
My point is simply that revoking a license doesn’t necessarily take those people off the road.
People bring this up often. As far as I can tell such people are not heavily represented in car crash statistics.
Furthermore, we literally use the phrase, "never got so much as a speeding ticket" to suggest that speeding is the epitome of a minor, inconsequential infraction, when the reality is that we know speeding is a significant cause of and contributor to death, destruction, and injury in automobile crashes.
Predicated on simply having been driving over the speed limit, the chances of an accident are very low. That's why people don't care about speeding.
(This is one of my big issues with US speed limits. All the discussion around it is always scoped only to other cars for the most part.)
Second, there's the matter of just how damn uncomfortable it is to be around speeding cars when you're not also in a car yourself. People in suburbs don't really think about this because nobody walks anywhere. But I live in a walkable urban environment and the speeders here are an enormous hit to quality of life. They're louder, more aggressive -- it's just really unsettling to be around.
This can be hard to convince suburbanites of, because they conceive of themselves mostly as drivers and not as pedestrians, but even if there were no safety improvements, it would be a huge win for urban environments if we could rein in speeding.
But the reality is that it would also save ~6,000 lives a year in the U.S.
I do believe all of those are minor infractions (and of course they were inconsequential, except for the delay and expense [if convicted] of the ticket). Revenue enforcement here is mostly done on controlled access highways; it’s shooting fish in a barrel.
There's real political pushback from trying to actually decrease traffic incidents because actions to decrease these incidents result in higher overhead for current drivers, something historically lightly enforced.
Of course they do. The laws they enforce with machine level reliability do not reflect the reality of how society behaves.
Nobody actually cares whether or not people obey the rarely relevant number on the sign so long as people travel a safe and reasonable speed.
For example, did you know that the risk of severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a moving vehicle is about 25% at 23 MPH but jumps all the way to 75% at 39 MPH. Do the people who routinely travel down my street at or near 40 MPH know this? They do not behave like they know this. They behave like they think 39 MPH is more or less the same as 23 MPH. They behave like they aren't aware of the non-linear increase in risk to everyone around them (because they aren't and they're operating climate-controlled machines that are designed to abstract away the environment outside the car).
Not to mention just how goddamn unpleasant it is to be around cars driving that fast on residential streets, even if they never hit anyone. It's loud, aggressive, and just downright uncomfortable for everyone not also in a car.
In practice speeding or at least the instance that resulted in getting ticketed is usually inconsequential.
Between highways signed well under the normal traffic speeds, revenue enforcement and fishing stops the overwhelming majority of speeding tickets are trivial. People engaging in the kind of speeding most people can agree is excessive are a tiny minority. If they weren't people wouldn't use a speeding ticket as the epitome of a trivial infraction.
Of course speed is a factor in death and destruction. That's tautologically true thanks to how the equations in Newtonian physics are written but you don't see anyone (who isn't getting laughed at) advocating for the return of the national speed limit for obvious reasons.
- speed is obviously a factor, but there's a wealth of other factors. 90 on a clear highway with little traffic, and the driver is alert? Fairly safe. 90 while weaving between lanes, leaving little reaction time? Not safe.
- drivers seriously overestimate their competence. Humans undervalue outlier events. This is the root of the stat about accidents occurring within a mile of home.
That's why we have generally-lax enforcement of motorway limits but "strict" enforcement of urban limits in the UK. I'm not asserting that we've got it right here, but it looks more sensible in my eyes.
Caveat: urban centres are increasingly adopting 20mph. I think there's a tacit understanding that people will drive at 27. When it was 30, they'd do 34, so that's a big increase in survivability.
It is much easier to implement the necessary measures (against the will of many drivers) if it is clear that drivers run over people, not that people accidentally end up under cars.
Writing an NLP bot that rewords articles to blame the driver 100% of the time is nothing but an exercise in getting a nice revenge dopamine rush. But drivers aren't the ones building roads.
This tool actually includes a recommendation called "framing" which asks writers to incorporate sentences specifically to highlight the systemic nature of the problem as opposed to blaming individual drivers. Click on one of the examples to see, explained at https://visionzeroreporting.com/issues#framing:
Article lacks thematic framing. Readers who encounter episodic frames tend to hold individuals responsible for negative outcomes and put less pressure on public leaders to make changes. [Learn more about framing]
HOW TO FIX
Include at least 3 thematic elements.
It does no good to play this game of rhetoric, reframing the matter so the driver is at fault (which is not always the case). A driver does not decide to not run over a person because they think a news story will be more accusatory of them.
I don't take the position that reducing speed is a good answer for every high-risk road situation, but for those where it is, changing the speed limit alone is likely a poor solution.
And having to navigate traffic that is not of a homogeneous speed creates cognitive load for all drivers. So then they don't notice things like cyclists and pedestrians.
Why not? There's clear evidence showing that crashes at higher speeds are much more deadly. IMO any street that allows pedestrians and bicycles should be designed for 20mph car traffic. If you want to drive faster than that, do it on a limited-access highway.
* "5 crashes have happened at this intersection so far this year"
* "The speed limit at the crash site was 35, above the standard arterial speed limit of 25"
* "The road at the bend had sharrow markings, which cycling advocates say are ineffective and inferior to marked or protected bike lines."
(Or am I misunderstanding your last sentence?)
Ideally we should be improving infrastructure to ensure that the risks created by high speed lumps of metal is reduced as far as practically possible. But until that happens, we have to acknowledge that in the majority incidents drivers are only ones capable of changing the outcome. Additionally drivers should take one a greater responsibility when operating vehicles in areas where they might encounter more vulnerable road users. Vulnerable road users will always end up paying a substantially greater price in any incident, so it’s reasonable to ask drivers to be more careful to avoid those incidents.
Ultimately, Framing (thematic vs. episodic) is the most important consideration for these articles. It's important for articles to discuss road design, safety initiatives, etc. in order to equip readers with the knowledge necessary to get governments to act.
However, Framing is also the most difficult pattern to detect simply because there are so many different thematic elements you can discuss, and many different ways to say each one. Here are a few examples:
- This is the 3rd pedestrian fatality this year.
- Residents have long complained about people racing down their street.
- Washington St. has had a long lasting problem with weather-related crashes.
- According to the NHTSA, there are X crashes per year related to prescription drug-induced drowsy driving.
- Street width directly correlates with driving speed, which in turn increases the time needed to react and brake.
I'm relying on manually annotated articles (700+ so far) and a custom-trained spaCy model to detect these elements, and the accuracy of that model depends on having enough training data. Since thematic elements are so rare in real-life articles, I'm having a difficult time providing enough training data. Hence why the tool emphasizes the other editorial anti-patterns, for now, but this will change once the Framing reporter gets better.
Anyone have any suggestions for augmenting my training set for thematic elements?
I think "almost all" would have to include the various use of the word accident when the fault hasn't been fully determined. I've been following Project Zero for years now and that is a big part of our shtick. And that certainly is not shifting the blame from the pedestrian to the driver. It is merely removing a harmful assumption.
Because the overwhelming majority of multi-party crashes involve one party violating the norms of how whatever traffic type they are is expected by the rest of the traffic to behave and shaming people is, for better or worse, an effective means of motivating specific behavior.
A car hit a cyclist/pedestrian
A person driving a car struck (with the car) a person who was [on a bicycle]/walking.
The issue is, "hit by a car" moves the focus away from what the person driving the car was/was not doing at the time.
The homepage confused me because the presentation of the two examples made me think that they were before/after at first. It took me ~30s to realize they were just two separate articles.
I'd like to see a bad article juxtaposed with an improved version that someone created using your tool.
I'm maybe used to tools like Grammarly, but when I clicked / hovered over the highlighted text, I was surprised to see nothing happen. I found it a little difficult to scroll back and forth between the highlighted text and the context where it appeared in the article. Having an explanation appear next to the cursor on mouse click/hover might resolve this.
It would also be cool if the tool allowed me to import by URL (with some suggested real articles to show this is a problem in mainstream news sources) rather than require the user to copy/paste manually.
Being super preachy, as a cliched straight white etc etc... after riding a bike I sort of get complaints about -isms, emotionally, in a way I wouldn't without.
Everyone has already concluded that you deserved it. Whatever happened. It does not matter if you were wearing hi-vis, or had a light, or were in a bike lane, or the nearest bike lane is 5 miles away and on the pavement for some reason, or were 3.1 ft from the kerb or 2.6. If you were stopped at a red light and are now sprawled in front of it because a van didn't, you're clearly lying. If a motorist jumps a set of temporary lights and hit you when you had the green, you're clearly lying. You deserved it, always and forever, is the only argument you need to know, the rest is window dressing.
Now we wonder why kids don't get exercise.
Traveling down a well-lit street at night, lights on my bike front and back, approaching a four-way intersection, green for me, a car turning left across my path stopped its turn mid-intersection, yielding to my right-of-way allowing me to proceed. Meanwhile, the car behind it filled with drunken women goes around the yielding car to turn left... into me, on my bike. I was luckily agile enough to leap clear as my bike went clattering away beneath me. I was unhurt though, obviously, shaken.
The driver of the car that hit me came running over to the sidewalk where I sat down and started yelling at me for riding at night. And for not wearing a helmet. "You could have been killed!" she said. I am not making this up. Then she fled.
Division and Brannan street, SF, about 12 years ago.
I don't currently bike but once upon a time that was how I usually got around Los Angeles and boy was it eye-opening. And yet, as someone who's primarily been a motorist and pedestrian since, sometimes I catch myself forgetting.
If you are a kid driving isn't an option. If you don't feel safe on the roads as a pedestrian or bicyclist then your options are rather limited. This was my own experience, and if I had been less reckless I would have gotten less exercise. As it was, telling some one about a scary experience like a car almost hitting me was usually almost always met with a story about how terrible cyclists are. Its weird.
I think perception of physical danger is low on the list of reasons why kids don't get as much exercise as they should. Lower on the list than helicopter parents, "stranger danger" paranoia, and the appeal of video games.
Yes, you see kids behaving recklessly. You don't see the less reckless kids behaving that way. It is really not a surprise, right? Some kids, I'm sure, don't skateboard or bike because on one hand there is a social pressure to not wear a helmet but on the other hand they don't want to get their skull cracked.
'Perception of danger' was probably my primary criteria as a child for selecting activities. Why do you think children don't think about this? Do you remember being a child?
Heh, I remember laying down on my skateboard and riding it down hills headfirst without a helmet when I was a kid. Like most children, I was invincible.
No, like most children you knew. The quiet or more risk averse ones weren't out tearing shit up like we were.
Besides, lets get back to brass tacks here. Currently your argument is that bike safety isn't important because kids feel invulnerable, which is sort of untenable. Road safety is important, and to get back to TFA, I think its important that when describing collisions between bikes and cars some of the onus is placed on the person piloting the car. I find it suspicious that there is a concerted lack of transparency in this regard.
Bad infrastructure is an infrastructure issue. Trying to gussy it up as a social one is going to be a really tough case to make when there are actual human rights violations happening in-media-res.
Last I checked infrastructure spending was mostly dictated by social policies. Either that or we’ve had generations of truly incompetent infrastructure planners who have all failed to realise that drivers in cars aren’t only people who need to get from A to B.
And so we get stuff like this:
If you have word from the police that the driver was not found to have any alcohol or if the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet, those are simply facts, not counterfactuals.
(An article about an accident should report all the hitherto known facts; then it can't be accused of having a bias with regard to cherry-picking the facts.)
There is a problem with "alcohol doesn't appear to be a factor" in that it lacks conclusiveness. Appear to whom? For what reasons, and why aren't they sure? The driver was able to touch their nose with their eyes closed, is that it? I think a reasonable rule should be to cull any probabilistic statements, or statements with hedge words introducing uncertainty: remove all such statements from third parties, and under no circumstances invent new probabilistic statements in the process of editorializing.
In fact, it's the use of the word accident that may have the counterfactual issue (and good point here). There is a supposition behind it which may be false. Maybe it wasn't an accident? You can't logically call a pedestrian hit an accident until other hypotheses have been ruled out, like the driver had a specific murder motive, or is crazy. It's also hard to call it an accident if the driver was blatantly reckless: acted contrary to the rules of the road which are intended to prevent such occurrences, and which the driver is legally obliged to follow as a matter of licensing. If a walking person falls into a fountain due to texting on their phone, it's difficult to swallow the word accident, since they were practically begging for something to happen by moving through an environment while choosing to block it out.
- if the cyclist had been wearing a helmet (which they weren't), then they might have survived
- if impairment had been an issue (which it wasn't), then the driver would've been responsible for that
And I guess they're particularly often used for victim blaming:
- if the rape victim hadn't worn revealing clothing, they probably would have been safe
So, while I agree that the issue is not particularly well presented here, it does seem plausible to me that implied counterfactuals frequently distract from the culpable party (by pointing out all the hypothetical things that the victim "could have done").
There seems to be some conflict with how to define "counterfactual". Merriam-Webster defines it as "contrary to fact" , so that comes down to a statement being either true or false. But the way I'm using it (and the research my work is based off) aligns more with the Cambridge dictionary usage: "thinking about what did not happen but could have happened, or relating to this kind of thinking" . Further, Stanford Philosophy states, "Modal discourse concerns alternative ways things can be, e.g., what might be true, what isn’t true but could have been, what should be done. This entry focuses on counterfactual modality which concerns what is not, but could or would have been." 
> If you have word from the police that the driver was not found to have any alcohol or if the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet, those are simply facts, not counterfactuals.
I do believe these are counterfactuals, consistent with definitions from  and . For example, if a bicyclist is hit and killed and the news article states the fact he wasn't wearing a helmet, sometimes it feels like the article is insinuating that if the bicyclist had been wearing a helmet, he would have survived. Of course, we cannot know that without investigating how fast the driver was going, how heavy the colliding vehicle was, etc. Some of those crashes are simply unsurvivable. The article espouses a "what could have been" thought. Please feel free to disagree, but provide links so I can read more.
> You can't logically call a pedestrian hit an accident until other hypotheses have been ruled out
I agree, but it seems that journalists take a different view. They see "crash" as intentional (i.e. you used your vehicle to murder someone), and that's why they use the word "accident". The way I see it, accident implies the incident was unforeseeable and unpreventable. I also think "accident" requires a higher burden of proof: just like all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, I think all accidents are crashes, but not all crashes are accidents. In the absence of a conclusive police investigation demonstrating complete unavoidability, the word accident should not be used.
That's not to say that these are purely value-neutral facts, it still makes sense for them to be called out by this tool. I wish I had a better term for them though, rather than just complaining about the current label.
We cannot easily detect this pattern of bias from just a sample of one article from the given source, however, even from one article, there can be a hint of this bias. For instance, a statement about the impairment level of the driver is not made, but the status about the bicycle helmet is made.
To avoid, or at least reduce biases, the reporter has to have a standard template of all relevant fact types, fill it in with everything that is known and then report on everything. If the cyclist was wearing a helmet, report that; if not also report that.
(The available facts may be biased, like what the police and other on-scene responders take in and communicate.)
Obviously there are other factors (size of the vehicle, whether it scoops somebody up over the bonnet or down under the wheels, whether the driver is following the speed limit or speeding etc. etc.), and there are other policy options that can also help increase safety, like separating cyclists and cars with curbs, barriers, medians, etc. But I don't think there is any controversy to the assertion that reducing speed on city/suburban streets does reduce accidents and the severity of accidents...
Isn't that all statements, if we're being honest bayesians?
Should our built environment be such that falling down in public should end your life? Do people deserve to die simply because they want to cross the street? Why do we design residential neighborhoods where parents are afraid of letting their kids play outside due to traffic? Do drivers of 4,000+ lbs of steel and glass bear greater responsibility than pedestrians and bicyclists.
In the article you mention with the woman falling into the street, the article makes no mention of street design. Further, emphasis is placed on the victim, but nothing is said of the driver.
- What is the speed limit on that road? Fast-moving vehicles will require faster reaction time and longer stopping distances. Maybe areas that mix traffic with VRUs need to be reworked.
- Did the driver appear to make any effort to stop? If so, why doesn't the article mention it if they already have video evidence? If not, did the driver not see the woman? Was the driver distracted?
- Did poor illumination contribute to this collision? (If so, that's a design element: street lighting).
> I gather that the intent is not to make the reporting more neutral or accurate, but to change the framing in a direction that vision zero finds more appealing.
I'm posting this to demonstrate my work and seek honest and meaningful criticism to improve the tool and help improve public discourse around a public safety matter that is killing 30k-40k people per year in the U.S., and injuring millions. You can avoid the underhanded and snarky quip.
Let me be clear: Your goal of improving road safety is laudable, and the aspects your tool highlights are conceivably a way to achieve that. But priming visitors to expect "editorial anti-patterns" and then instead presenting "insufficiently biased-to-the-pedestrian" snippets is dishonest.
While there are recommendations in there I fully support (e.g. "highlight systematic problems"), I am particularly put off by repeated suggestions like "the driver hit the cyclist": Unless the driver itself physically made contact with the cyclist, this is between inaccurate and confusing. It sounds like a fist fight broke out when the fundamental happening was someone being injured by sudden contact with a vehicle.
You can still involve the driver in the sentence if needed, but please don't advocate for confusing reporting in the name of unconditionally blaming individuals.
Also, suggestion for an addition: If you want to improve road safety, you could also recommend report on the maintenance status of the vehicle (e.g. were the brakes well-serviced?).
I certainly have a lot more work to do over the next few weeks to improve the tool, and I think much of your comment will be addressed once I place a lot more weight on Framing (see my other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28842314).
For your "driver hit the cyclist" example, I would like to avoid confusion that there was a physical altercation like a fist fight between the driver and cyclist. However, I stand by the sentence structure, because I don't want to personify or give agency to vehicles (e.g. "vehicle hit the cyclist") when it's the driver who is in control, and focusing on driver calls into question more thematic elements like distracted driving, speeding, visibility and lighting conditions, etc.
Is there a way you'd recommend rephrasing "driver hit the cyclist" to satisfy both our suggestions?
> Calling them "editorial anti-patterns" because they don't frame the discussion how you would like it to be framed is
To be clear, I'm not trying to force my desired framing on authors or inject bias into articles. I am simply working off of the research I've seen, such as Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting  and all the other citations in that paper, that there is a very real and measurable effect on the language used in these articles and the readers' perception on blame and preventative measures.
However, I am certainly thinking about the feedback I've received from everyone in this thread.
> If you want to improve road safety, you could also recommend report on the maintenance status of the vehicle (e.g. were the brakes well-serviced?).
That sounds like an interesting idea. I know that vehicle status can contribute to crashes, and legislation has been enacted to improve this. For example, all vehicles now require tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) because improper tire pressure was leading to lots of crashes. Back-up cameras are required because people, particularly small children, were being run over when in reverse. States have different requirements for periodic vehicle safety inspections (in New York State where I live it's once per year).
If a crash is being reported involving older vehicles, maybe journalists could mention if those vehicle predate certain safety mandates. For example, vehicles before 2007 in the U.S. may not have TPMS 
Take an example from the tool:
- The SUV crashed into the woman.
- The driver crashed into the woman.
It is not that one of these statements is "neutral" while the other one is biased. In both cases, the author is making a choice of emphasis.
What Vision Zero advocates is that the former's emphasis is the wrong one, and that ascribing more agency (not necessarily blame, but agency) to drivers is the right emphasis to take. But no one is saying that that the choice of words is not subjective either way.
It's possible (and not unlikely) that this is how more news will be processed in the future.
Also: If all of this is done toward the goal of reducing vehicle-related pedestrian deaths, maybe the dictionary says that's technically a bias, but I have a hard time seeing the argument that its a reprehensible one. Pedestrians may bear some responsibility; the driver is not always at fault; at the end of the day, a pedestrian has never killed a driver. The point here isn't/shouldn't be about fault; its about underscoring a power imbalance.
Have you ever heard the old saying: If the team succeeds, its everyone's success; if the team fails, its the manager's failure? Same thing. In situations of power imbalance, it is Good to bias fault toward power. As they say: with great power, comes great responsibility. Most drivers on American roads have zero sense of responsibility.
A person collapses into the street and is struck by oncoming traffic - no one is to blame. It is an accident.
* The city for making car dependent areas
* The city for making roads that have cars drive so fast by pedestrians, that the pedestrian can die if hit
* The driver for not driving more reasonably
* The city for not having a barrier between the sidewalk and the road, China has these in a lot of areas, a curb with a hedge between the side walks and roads, or a fence.
The pedestrian who collapses is the last to blame in my view.
Or they collapse mere seconds before the car strikes them making the __accident__ unavoidable.
Roads should be designed so that pedestrians cannot accidentally end up 0.1 seconds (or pick your duration) from being crushed by a driver. And drivers, state-licensed machine operators, should face an incredibly high bar of scrutiny when it comes to damaging pedestrians. Yes this probably means very different road designs than the ones we have now, that is one of the end goals of this kind of effort.
The objective is not to shift blame from one party to the other, even if its shifting from VRUs to drivers. The important thing is that we emphasize that all car crashes have a cause and known solutions! Nearly all news articles miss this point, and tend to place blame (even inadvertently) on the parties involved rather than discuss how to prevent future incidents from happening.
There are lots of good reasons to make roads safer, lots of methods for doing so, and none of them require making drivers the villains.
Even 5 mph is too fast if the collapse is shielded from view until the last instant.
In other words your statement boils down to "driver can stop unless they can't".
- a driver should be able to brake if a person falls suddenly (streets)
- a person is isolated from/ is incapable of falling suddenly into oncoming traffic (roads)
It's the same reason highways are fenced off, extended to streets and roads. A big part of the problem is America's reliance on stroads: too fast to be hospitable for non-drivers, insufficiently isolated to protect non-drivers.
The best favor you can do all other traffic is to be as predictable and unremarkable in your actions as possible so that they may reliably plan their actions around yours.
I'm 49 and I've been driving since I was 16.
You can absolutely react to hazards without appearing skittish, which also alerts other traffic to the hazard if they're paying close attention.
Trying to drive like a robot all the time is something that actual novice drivers think makes them better drivers.
All that other stuff in this thread about safer road design is really about removing the need to think about how to drive. So instead of making it so drivers need to give cyclists room, safe road design would just give them that room. But in the absence of those safer designs, people just need to drive more safely.
Thanks for the strawman. My point is that doing so to an extent that is anomalous compared to other traffic sends up red flags.
My point is you look like a novice in the eyes of the other drivers because the only information they have is that you're having a harder time than everyone else passing the cyclist(s).
>You can absolutely react to hazards without appearing skittish, which also alerts other traffic to the hazard if they're paying close attention.
In my experience, this is because the other drivers are just rolling the dice and passing on blind curves or passing in the same lane with barely any clearance. It's not an example of good driving ... but it is predictable.
That is not the mindset with which aviation arrived at its amazing safety record.
The parent comment didn't even say one way or another if the driver who struck the woman should get any blame...
To my surprise, this tool finds no problems with the article and gives it a B.
(I'm really tickled by the tool, like the idea, but based on a totally not rigorous sample, seems like the tool leans a bit too much into sort of sentence structure analysis and elides some semantics?)
1. Focus: she was struck by a Toyota Corolla (emphasis is placed on the VRU)
2. Object: she was struck by a Toyota Corolla (agent is referred to as an object, rather than a person, e.g. driver of the Corolla)
3. Object: a 2010 Toyota Corolla being driven by a 29-year-old Brookline man, was driving east (again, the wording personifies the vehicle instead of assigning agency to the driver heading eastward)
I will need to debug this particular example further, but it appears the "2010 Toyota Corolla" and "Toyota Corolla" are not being classified as CARLIKE, a label I trained an NER model on to help deal with all the ways you can name a vehicle: year-make-model, make-model, year-model, model, model-ish, generic terms like truck/pickup/pick-up etc., short-hands like Chevy instead of Chevrolet, etc.
Furthermore, the tool is not identifying "woman" as a VRU. It's a little bit ambiguous because while "[she] entered the roadway", it's not 100% clear that means she is a VRU: a driver/vehicle can enter a roadway too.
But I am dubious about some of the principles behind it.
- For example, I find it inaccurate to say "the driver hit the pedestrian", which to me suggests a collision between two people, not between a person and a vehicle. (Of course this does not apply to a phrase like "the vehicle fled the scene" - it is clear that it was the driver who fled the scene). While it's obvious the driver is responsible for the trajectory of their vehicle, it's also clear that the injuries and deaths are caused by the fact that one of the elements involved in the collusion is a 1+ ton piece of steel, and the other one a 70kg human being.
- Regarding the term "accident", I see in the Merriam-Webster that it is defined in this context as: "an unfortunate event resulting in particular from negligence or ignorance". It seems to me that this definition does not exonerate the driver from responsibility (lack of vigilance or competence).
It seems reasonable to me. Imagine you’re driving and you hit a deer. What do you say when you tell the story? “My car hit a deer this morning on my way to work!” or “I hit a deer this morning on my way to work!” Even my “Imagine you’re driving and you hit a deer” sentence reads weirdly in the non-person-based language.
If accuracy or confusion is still the issue “the assailant hit the victim” could be amended to “the assailant hit the victim with a baseball bat” to clarify.
>"I was on my way to work and this guy just hit me! He just came out of nowhere and hit me!"
Cue the inevitable asking of a) did he strike you with a fist? a weapon? b) did he strike you with a vehicle? c) if he struck you with a vehicle, were you in your vehicle or were you walking?
I got burned -many- times over taking the seemingly obvious interpretation of "I was on my way to work and this guy just hit me!" and assuming a "two-vehicle traffic collision" just to find out the caller was actually exiting a coffee shop when someone physically assaulted him, or was walking back to his parked car when he watched someone back into it, etc..
Even "I was driving to work and someone hit me" leaves such a plethora of questions unanswered that yes, in instances where -clarity- is important (having to be clear and succinct, not casually retelling the story at a bar) I would much rather hear "I was driving my vehicle when another driver collided with me" which isn't meaningfully longer and clarifies many questions about what happened.
Or alternatively, they got in an argument and the driver punched the pedestrian.
On the other hand, you'd never say "the bicycle hit the pedestrian". It would be "the cyclist hit the pedestrian". The former would make it sound like the cyclist had ejected from the bike and the bicycle to continue onward and collided with the pedestrian.
Part of this may be that when a bicycle crashes into me, the 20LBs of bicycle is less important than the 150LBs of cyclist, whereas with a car it's the momentum of the vehicle that's deadly, but I suspect there's also just the fact that we've normalized absolving drivers and blaming the car itself.
Obviously, the correct solution is to say "the human-operated car crashed into the pedestrian", just as we'd say "the self-driving car" if it were autonomous.
I think in aviation circles the word "accident" is disliked because it implies a certain inevitability and tends to terminate the search for further underlying causes.
If it's a crash, then we find out why, and if it happened because there was some debris on the runway or a certain switch in the cockpit was in the wrong position, then we need to find out how that could have happened and what to undertake to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Seems reasonable. Cars don't kill people of their own volition without a driver. And in similar circumstances we wouldn't say something like an AR-15 killed a person, we'd say a gunman/gunwoman/shooter did. Why should drivers get treated differently?
It seems obvious that "the vehicle" is not doing the fleeing, so even if this is standard phrasing it should be revised.
Further, you tend to have control over the wrench in this scenario (and if I was hit by a wrench because you e.g. dropped it unintentionally, "the wrench hit me" is reasonable), whereas insufficient control over the car is usually the problem in a crash.
> In the late 1920s and ’30s, a consortium of automobile manufacturers, insurers, and fuel companies known as the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce funded a wire service that provided free reporting on crashes to short-staffed Depression-era newspapers. Reporters could send in a few basic details about a local collision, and the wire service would craft a narrative that exonerated the driver, blamed any pedestrians who were involved, and — crucially — transformed virtually every “crash” into an understandable or even inevitable “accident.” Newspapers around the country published the industry-approved stories, often without edits.
You pay lip service to systemic problems, but this is not a systemic approach to reducing crashes; it just implies that the driver is at fault, which is not always the case in these things. As another comment noted, reporters would do well to highlight the context around the crash if there's no clear fault (such as an intoxicated or negligent driver, or a pedestrian running into the road within minimum braking distance), such as lack of bike lanes, blind corners, etc that would apply pressure to authorities to make the roads safer.
Not all crashes can be default-blamed on the driver.
When operating a car you should be expected to be in a heightened state of awareness and responsibility because of your capacity to cause damage, compared to a pedestrian.
The bias in the current narrative (against pedestrians who have little autonomy vs a car) is so strongly on the wrong side that I don't think asking for a middle-ground approach is worth arguing.
I can't tell you how many times I've read stuff like this: https://www.bikelaw.com/2021/10/waller-bike-crash/
Your cessna example makes no sense, as cars and planes do not generally share space. Should bikes and cars share space? No, but that's part of the systemic aspect of the problem.
I say this as a person who's driven a car for 25 years and never hit any people, and who has been hit by a car by a driver who wasn't paying attention multiple times. What's worse, is drivers are often angry at cyclists for even existing, rather than taking responsibility for being aware of their surroundings.
The cessna example is a little over the top, but not totally out of line as a metaphor.
Instead it refers to pedestrians as Vulnerable Road Users. It says the information that "alcohol was not a factor" is a "Distracting counterfactual. Readers place more blame on victims when articles use more counterfactual statements. Counterfactuals also obscure the systemic nature of incidents and place unreasonable burden on individuals."
I thought this would be an automated grammar assistant for basic English writing techniques you should have learned in high school. It's not. Instead, it's a tool for injecting bias into reporting.
The corrected version of "woman was hit by a car" (key actor not even mentioned) and "alcohol was not a factor" (unmentioned driver did nothing wrong) is "driver hits woman in unlit crosswalk, third casualty at this intersection this year."
The former statements don't challenge the status quo of deadly infrastructure. The latter statement does. Making the driver visible makes it clear to readers that drive that the story isn't one just about other people: they, too, could be doing everything right but still hurt someone.
Accidents are “oops” that are to accepted as fact of life. The no reason to change the system. Accidents happen.
Crashes are not accidents. They have a cause and the cause can addressed. Crashes can be prevented.
So the reframing shifts from talking about a system we should accept how it is to one that can be improved.
Currently there are headlines like this:
"Car hits cyclist"
Why is a victim a person but the actor is an inanimate object? They don't say "car hits bike".
A more accurate headline would be "Car driver hits cyclist".
The other way to improve reporting is to call a preventable crash what it is, a crash and not an "accident".
More here: https://www.bicycling.com/news/a20049939/five-cyclist-blamin...
The car physically touched the bicyclist, hence "car hits cyclist". The driver did not physically touch the bicyclist, hence "driver hits cyclist" is inaccurate. "Car hits bicycle" is accurate but not the most relevant fact to report (unless nobody was riding it at the time?).
I'm not sure why this point has not been discussed in this thread. Maybe my understanding of English is insufficiently advanced, but "driver hits cyclist" literally implies to me that one person punched another, not that the car crashed into the person riding a bicycle (although this can generally be inferred from the context).
A headline would be used even if the car did physically touch the cyclist but hit the bike and knocked the off.
Also, we don't have headlines that say "bullet shoots child", because the person shooting the gun did not physically touch the child. In some of these cases, the car is the lethal weapon, the agency of person driving the car matters.
> but "driver hits cyclist" literally implies to me that one person punched another
"hits" can mean "impacted" or "run into", so it's accurate here even though it's not a punch.
To humanize the victim without ascribing blame, when blame is unknown. For the same reason you wouldn't have a headline that read "Alice killed Bob with her car": even though that may technically be true, it's needlessly critical. Needless from the perspective of an editorially neutral party, like a newspaper, but not from the perspective of an activist, like this website.
Most headlines were like "Lorry kills 12 at Christmas Market", like there was a killer truck on the loose.
Here's an alternate framing of an article where a car is a fatal weapon:
"Driver plows car into pedestrians at German bus stop, killing one"
The lead clarifies that "no assumptions should be made at this point".
It's factual that a man drove a truck into a Christmas market and another person drove into a pedestrian at a bus stop. That can be reported without an assumption of guilt without re-framing the story as if the cars drove themselves.
Seems like a better title for this.
In the analysis of the first article, under the "recommendations" about counterfactuals, it's literally telling you to remove relevant context about the incident, to ensure the readers can't possibly come to the "wrong" conclusion about who's responsible.
Distrust of news media is at an all-time high and if people can't see how this sort of thing contributes, I really don't know what to say at this point.
It is quite common for the driver to flee the scene while leaving behind the disabled vehicle.
…one of my old coworker’s vehicle was involved in an accident with a pedestrian who ran full speed in front of her while it was dark outside and the vehicle was traveling at the legal speed limit. Said vehicle was unable to stop in time which resulted in the speeding pedestrian striking the vehicle.
I think you haven’t presented evidence.
I like that it tags segments of text as opposed to the document as a whole.
Since it is confined to a domain and has a well-chosen problem it seems to be highly correct and thus useful.
As far as suggestions, it would be great to see an explanation of each problem when hovering over it in the text. Also, the colors for the "Object", "Counterfactuals", and "Accident" problems are difficult to distinguish for color-deficient individuals.
My backend uses spaCy (NER/NLP), textacy  for extracting subject-verb-object triples, and coreferee  for coreference resolution.
I did build a custom spaCy model for which I manually annotated over 700 crash-related news articles in Label Studio . This custom model identifies counterfactuals, framing (e.g. thematic elements), and what's called CARLIKE, because vehicles can be referred to in so many ways (year-make-model, year-model, color model, generic terms like pickup/sedan/truck, nicknames like Chevy instead of Chevrolet, etc.
Coreference resolution was probably my favorite part of the NLP analyzer. For example: "A woman was injured after being struck by a vehicle. She was walking on Washington Street when the incident took place." Now we can identify "woman" as a pedestrian because "she" was walking. Implementing that coreference resolution felt magical, because now the tool can pick up so many more issues that it couldn't before when it only looked at individual sentences.
I'll be writing an in-depth article about my implementation and journey, and I'll be sure to shoot you an email to chat with you some time.
When I first saw "Object" in the summary, I didn't know what it meant.
There are opinions that are not going to be liked (i.e. crash vs accident) but such is the nature of any linter.
On the ridiculous side: the idea that calling a car accident an "accident" is somehow wrong - as if, because I understand that what happened was an accident, I am somehow incapable of thinking "hey, maybe we need better road safety legislation".
On the creepy side: the general approach which is, instead of making public arguments about why cars are bad, to manipulate language so as to push people to your side, using results from behavioural science.
Of course, if you think the author is on the side of the angels, then this is great! But the techniques can be used by equally self-righteous people, with whom you may disagree.
Treating people like sheep is gross. Don't do it.
Not surprisingly, there are quite a few hit-and-runs on those streets.
While it's probably the case that the folks who are speeding are just being selfish ("I want to minimize my time on the road") but they are doing so at the cost of safety. The equivalent w/r/t guns might be that someone was firing their gun willy-nilly, with little regard to their surroundings. If someone died in such a scenario, yes, it would have been an "accident" but we would also assign fault to the shooter (gross negligence, manslaughter, I am not a lawyer so I don't know the exact terminology).
The reality is that cars are EXTREMELY dangerous and yet Americans don't tend to think of them that way, and we definitely don't drive them (as a society) with that mindset.
City planners and engineers are intentional about what they choose to build or not build.
This is a shaky foundation of an argument IMO.
I would make no assumptions about if car accidents are accidental (which for some reason seems to be the default) or not - and that's more or less the point of the article.
I was trying to amusingly challenge the reader to separate the two meanings of accident (car crash and something that happened unintentionally) just like most writing about crashes tries to get the reader to conflate them. :)