April 23, 2018, 12:28 am
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Better story telling to make roads safe

FOR the past two years, VERA Files has been collaborating with World Health Organization in making our roads safe through stories

In 2015 there was a study Assessment of Philippine Media Coverage on Road Crashes and Road Safety by the public health policy think tank HealthJustice Philippines. The study concluded with the recommendation that “The media has a tremendous opportunity to lead the discussion on road safety and to frame it in a way that helps the public to see the importance of the issue, understand its real impact on their lives, and to both call for and support systemic solutions.”

Last Tuesday, VERA Files launched a booklet” Keeping our Roads Safe: A Guide for Journalists in the Philippines.”

This is part of our efforts to produce better, in-depth stories to raise awareness of roads that are people-unfriendly so that they can help in putting pressure on the government and other stakeholders to address the problem.

One of the problems in writing in-depth stories on road safety is the lack of available data . The Guide said the dearth of accurate and comprehensive data sets (in the Philippines) should not hinder journalists from pursuing data-driven stories.

Here’s a part of the Guidebook:

Central to road safety stories is a human face, and a backdrop of one’s unique tale: the setting, the severity of the crash and the loss of life. But anecdotes alone may misrepresent the issue, as each road crash experience is different. 

With numbers, journalists could illustrate the bigger picture of the frequency of such incidents and the gravity of the problem, compare road deaths with other global epidemics, monitor government performance, and in the long run, effect policy change. 

Road crashes are caused by a multitude of factors. However, in the Philippines, not all end up reflected in government data due to problems in recordkeeping, such as varying data collection methods and overlapping jurisdictions of traffic enforcers, based on the experience of road safety reporters. 

In data storytelling, evidence must be solid, interlinked and localized to identify the key problem areas that need intervention by government. It should form the basis for assessing whether or not policies are effective.

Without reliable data, an alternative could be pursuing stories tackling the absence of data to establish its importance in crafting policies. Conflicting government data, for instance, is a good story in itself. 

What makes a good road crash data system?

According to a 2010 WHO report Data Systems: A Road Safety Manual for Decision-Makers and Practitioners, road crash data systems should present information that is complete, detailed and timely. 

At the minimum, a good road crash data system should:

● “Capture nearly all crashes that result in death and a significant proportion of those that result in serious injuries”

● “Provide adequate detail on the vehicle, the road user and the road/environment to assist with identification of causes and selection of countermeasures”

● “Include accurate crash location information”

● “Provide reliable output in a timely manner to facilitate evidence-based decisions”

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