UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Media reporting of traffic legislation changes in British Columbia (2010) Brubacher, Jeffrey R.; Desapriya, Ediweera; Chan, Herbert; Ranatunga, Yamesha; Harjee, Rahana; Erdelyi, Shannon; Asbridge, Mark; Purssell, Roy; Pike, Ian


Introduction: In 2010, British Columbia (BC) introduced new traffic laws designed to deter impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving. These laws generated significant media attention and were associated with reductions in fatal crashes and in ambulance calls and hospital admissions for road trauma. Objective: To understand the extent and type of media coverage of the new traffic laws and to identify how the laws were framed by the media. Methods: We reviewed a database of injury related news coverage (May 2010–December 2012) and extracted reports that mentioned distracted driving, impaired driving, or speeding. Articles were classified according to: (i) Type, (ii) Issue discussed, (iii) ‘Reference to new laws’, and (iv) ‘Pro/anti traffic law’. Articles mentioning the new laws were reread and common themes in how the laws were framed were identified and discussed. Results: Over the course of the study, 1848 articles mentioned distraction, impairment, or speeding and 597 reports mentioned the new laws: 65 against, 227 neutral, and 305 supportive. Reports against the new laws framed them as unfair or as causing economic damage to the entertainment industry. Reports in favor of the new laws framed them in terms of preventing impaired driving and related trauma or of bringing justice to drinking drivers. Growing evidence of the effectiveness of the new laws generated media support. Conclusions: BC’s new traffic laws generated considerable media attention both pro and con. We believe that this media attention helped inform the public of the new laws and enhanced their deterrent effect.

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