In this blog, we often say that Maryland bicycle accidents can happen to anyone. Most bicyclists do not expect, when they go for a ride, to get into an accident. However, the truth is it can happen when you least expect it. The recent case of Shawn Bradley, one of the tallest basketball players in NBA history, illustrates this point. While many would think it would be almost impossible for a driver not to see the 7-foot-6 man on his bicycle, earlier this year a driver in a car hit him while he was riding a bike just down the street from where he lived. The crash resulted in Bradley suffering a spinal cord injury, which caused him to be paralyzed; a tragic consequence of an upsetting crash.
Unfortunately, as a recent news source recently pointed out, the way that the news media covered the accident added insult to Bradley’s injury. Headlines abounded about how Shawn Bradley was “paralyzed following bicycling accident,” failing to even mention the fact that another driver was involved or note what caused the accident—a negligent driver. In the cases where the cause of the crash was named, it was often blamed on the car, rather than the driver. In fact, in 2019, research was published on how the media reported traffic crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians and found that 80% of the time the story subtly shifted the blame, by minimizing the driver’s role in the crash.
While this may seem just a harmless choice of words, the truth is reporting in this way is part of a larger problem. As the news report noted, words matter, and the media often rely on initial crash reports from law enforcement for their stories. Those reports are often incomplete, without a victim’s statement, and may incorrectly assign the blame to the cyclist instead of the driver. The larger issue here is that cyclists are being implicitly blamed for tragic accidents that happen to them, and negligent drivers getting away with causing tragic accidents.