Background Road crashes are a leading cause of death and injuries in China. Rapid motorisation and mounting road crash casualties attract considerable media interest. However, the pattern of how the Chinese mass media frames road safety news remains unreported in the literature.
Objective We aimed to investigate media topics and prominence of road safety communication; identify existing gaps in media coverage; and thus to inform future media strategy reform from a public health perspective.
Methods During the period December 2011 to January 2012, we searched online mass media resources including print and/or web-based media, Youku (Chinese version of youtube) and similar, and Weibo (Chinese version of twitter), for various road safety and road traffic injury terms. We selected relevant articles using pre-described criteria and coded them to identify common themes and frames.
Results We identified fewer articles describing road safety research evidence and even fewer providing solutions to the audience, compared to the number of articles describing road crash scenes or road safety educational activities. News coverage of road crashes was highly concentrated in criticising convictions, while road safety campaigns primarily emphasised that the activities themselves were consistent with commonsense perceptions.
Significance The captured mass media in China is largely silent about research evidence and appropriate solutions central to advocate for evidence-based policies and public engagement. As an important knowledge-translation platform, mass media needs proactive framing of training and public engagement strategies to improve road safety communication in China.
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