It was nearly 20 years ago that I was sitting in a meeting and a Washington State DOT co-worker stopped me cold. I was describing an incident on a local highway that was snarling traffic, and my colleague interrupted my report.
“It’s ‘crash’ not ‘accident,'” he said. “We should never use ‘accident’ when describing crashes.”
I’m sure that I rolled my eyes. After all, I was the former journalist. I worked with media every day. I knew more about language that this guy. What was the big deal?
But in reality, he was right and his lesson stuck with me. “Accident” implies some kind of unavoidable randomness had a hand in the incident. Yet, in nearly every story behind the more than 34,000 annual highway fatalities, there is a cause. Those deaths were avoidable. Randomness? Perhaps. But certainly few were truly accidents.
While my co-worker’s lesson took place many years ago, the casualness with which most of us toss out the word “accident” is the focus of a new video by the Michigan DOT. The minute-long animated video makes the case that everyone who drives should take responsibility for their actions.
Michigan DOT is not alone. Safety advocates have argued for years that words matter and that we should not dismiss the carnage on our highways as simple accidents. The words we use help frame the way in which we see things.
Hopefully we’ll all heed the latest lesson from Michigan DOT, that actions (behind the wheel) matter too.
It may be hard to believe, but one of the hottest media tactics is podcasting. And several transportation departments and trade associations have developed podcasts as a way to reach what experts says is a still growing audience.
According to “The Podcast Consumer 2019,” a report published by Edison Research earlier this year, 22 percent of people age 12 and older listen to podcasts weekly, and nearly a third of people listen to podcasts monthly.
Edison’s report finds that the audience share for podcasting has grown a whopping 122 percent since 2014. And, young people age 12-24 are among the largest consumers of podcasting.
After a lawsuit was filed against the Trump Administration for blocking Twitter users, the Lansing State Journal decided to look at government accounts in its home state. It found that state agencies had blocked accounts.
A few paragraphs into the story, there was this line that pointed directly at the state DOT:
“Records show that while some government accounts didn’t block anyone, the dozen accounts associated with the Michigan Department of Transportation blocked a combined 550 individual Twitter handles.”
Longtime readers of this blog know that its focus is on the practice of communicating about transportation. This blog does not attempt to take on the politics of transportation.
However, in writing about one it is sometimes impossible not to include mention of the other. While that is perhaps the situation here, the interesting strategy behind a particular Michigan Department of Transportation communication effort is worth noting.
It’s the best time of year if you love baseball, but the worst time of year if you own or drive a car. Yes, major league baseball players are enjoying sunshine and spring weather as they prepare for a new season. The rest of us are struggling through a different change of seasons – from winter to pothole season – that leaves roadways bumpy, and in some cases dangerous.
State transportation departments have used a variety of tools to engage the public on the topic of potholes. Some have been fun, others serious. In Washington, DC and other states the annual spring push asks the public to help officials locate potholes.