'MOTORCYCLE HITS CAR'

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NEWSPAPER HEADLINE: ‘MOTORCYCLE HITS CAR’

‘Motorcycle Hits Turning Car.’ That’s a common headline in both newscasts and newspapers. Everyone knows it. But it’s usually neither true or accurate. What actually happened was a car turned in front of a motorcycle, then the bike and car collided.

Whenever anyone on the road is killed or injured, regardless of the reasons or specifics of the particular accident, the individuals involved - and the greater public - all deserve an accurate and unbiased account. It’s both good reporting and in the public interest. Understand this logically: A motorcyclist is traveling down a road and a car ahead is turning...so the motorcycler rides into the car. Right? Correct? Does this make sense? Why didn’t the nimble motorcycle avoid the car? Everyone knows that hitting a car is bad. Even motorcyclists. Perhaps the car turned into the motorcyclist (?). Motorcycles are smaller and harder to see than cars. An oncoming motorcycle’s speed can be hard to estimate, too.

It’s a lot more probable and logical that a car turns into a motorcyclist. Or just slightly ahead of the motorcyclist. Not ‘Motorcycle Hits Turning Car’. The headline should read ‘Car Turns Into Motorcyclist’ because the motorcyclist did nothing to initiate the accident. The unfortunate rider failed to avoid an unexpectedly turning car. To say the motorcyclist-hit-the-car shortchanges the truth and promotes a bias that favors drivers over motorcyclists. According to every traffic law, cars and motorcycles have exactly the same �right of way’ rights.

News editors and producers know that more consumers of their output are mostly car drivers, and that only a few are riders. The headline ‘Motorcyclist Hits Turning Car’ directly supports the biases of the broader audience at the expense of both law and the truth. This sadly common and linguistically subtle... but still dishonest..way of presenting the news of an accident colors the story as �them’ (motorcyclists) versus �us’ (car drivers). Except for those in the news disseminating business. This is unfair. Of course, the audience appreciates knowing that it is more 'ok' to be a car driver than it is to be a motorcyclist.

Such unfairness would be a little less objectionable if motorcycling were not a clear social good. Beyond being an obviously stimulating and invigorating recreation, riding is also a socially responsible form of personal transportation that saves energy, reduces congestion, adds parking spaces, helps the environment and provides many other broad public benefits. Riding is actually a form of public transportation, in that one is always in full public view, just as one is while riding a bus, an airplane, or a bicycle. Motorcycle and scooter riding encourages better socialized transportation behaviors.

Shame on all those who write and produce misleading and harmful headlines like ‘Motorcycle Hits Turning Car’ These spins and distortions are used over and over to describe this common type of accident. Not only did those directly involved hugely deserve a better and more honest coverage, the general public was also misled and further biased against a broadly beneficial type of vehicle.

Motorcyclists rarely ride into turning cars on purpose. But cars commonly turn into motorcyclists or just ahead of motorcyclists, without seeing them. That’s a too-common traffic violation and a crime that vicitmizes everyone on the roadway. These accidents should be reported for exactly what they are. Everyone deserves truth. This particular truth.

Andy Goldfine 6/28/03