How Reporting on North Carolina Auto Accidents Impacts Driver Behavior

May 20, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

When you read about North Carolina car, truck, and bus accidents on the web (or check at the local news), you may think that you’re participating in a relatively harmless, if voyeuristic, activity. But research suggests that the news itself can have a profound impact on the rates and kinds of accidents that occur.

This may seem like a paradoxical, somewhat crazy, statement. But research in a variety of fields backs it up. Reports about teen suicides, for instance, may increase the number of (similar) teen suicides in their wake. Similarly, if a blog or news report discusses a North Carolina car accident – such as an elderly driver running a red light and getting hurt – this may indirectly (and inadvertently!) causes a spike in very similar kinds of accidents.

What’s going on here?

Theories abound. One interesting idea is that news reports make certain kinds of disasters more salient in people’s minds. This additional salience may be enough to “tip” people into committing accidents. For instance, in the teen suicide example… perhaps there is always a population of teens who are on the verge of harming themselves. If a teenager sees a news report about a person very much like himself or herself committing suicide, he or she may get an indirect psychological suggestion that says this kind of behavior is “okay” – and that signal may be just enough to give the teen “social permission” to commit suicide… as awful as that sounds.

Likewise, if you’re a 65-year old woman, and you read about a 60 something year old woman who gets into a car accident, you may be psychologically “persuaded” to take more risk.

It sounds completely counterintuitive. After all, you’d think that reading such a report would make you MORE vigilant against that kind of trouble. And perhaps it does that too… for some people. But human beings are, first and foremost, social creatures. And the ways and means by which cultural influences change our behavior are many and mysterious.

Again, these concepts are both somewhat controversial and speculative. But in our hussle and bussle to clamp down on accident rates and protect drivers and pedestrians, we need to look at indirect factors, such as this kind of “social permission giving,” to devise effective policy.

If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, a North Carolina auto accident law firm can work with you to strategize how to get compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, rehab and time off of work.

More Web Resources:

Suicide and the media

Copycat suicide


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