Older Drivers in the News: Killer Headlines v Raising Awareness
Submission Date: November 15, 2018 Journal
Suggested Citation: Harkin, J.M., Charlton, J.L. and Lindgren, M. (2018). Older Drivers in the News: Killer Headlines v Raising Awareness. Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, 29(4), 72-83.
The daily print media continues to be an important political and social influence, shaping opinions and setting agendas. Yet few studies have examined Australian newspaper coverage of older drivers, despite researchers calling for increased public awareness of issues related to the growing number of older drivers on Australian roads. This study analyses the content and discourse of articles on older drivers and issues related to them from 11 Australian metropolitan daily newspapers, representing all state and territory capitals, over three periods: 2010-2014 (inclusive), 2016 and 2017. It focuses on three main areas: the topics covered; keywords, stock phrases and stereotypes used; and attributed sources, including who is quoted and where. Several patterns were apparent from the qualitative and quantitative analysis. Articles appeared sporadically but tended to cluster around reports of serious crashes where at least one driver was aged over 60 years. The debate was focused on age, with calls for testing and compulsory age-based restrictions common but few articles mentioned the contribution of the ‘frailty bias’ to the over-representation of older people in fatality and serious injury crash statistics. A better understanding of the way newspapers present such issues has much potential to identify and address misperceptions around safe driving and ageing.