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Blame attribution analysis of police motor vehicle collision reports involving child bicyclists
  1. Lea Caplan1,
  2. Bonnie Lashewicz1,
  3. Tona Michael Pitt2,
  4. Janet Aucoin1,2,
  5. Liraz Fridman3,4,
  6. Tate HubkaRao1,2,
  7. Ian Pike5,6,
  8. Andrew William Howard7,8,
  9. Alison K Macpherson9,
  10. Linda Rothman8,10,11,
  11. Marie-Soleil Cloutier12,
  12. Brent E Hagel1,2
  1. 1 Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3 Engineering and Transportation Services, Infrastructure, Development & Enterprise, City of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4 Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  6. 6 BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  7. 7 Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  8. 8 Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  9. 9 School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  10. 10 School of Occupational and Public Health, Faculty of Community Services, Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  11. 11 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  12. 12 Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brent E Hagel, Department of Paediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada; brent.hagel{at}


Background Injuries resulting from collisions between a bicyclist and driver are preventable and have high economic, personal and societal costs. Studying the language choices used by police officers to describe factors responsible for child bicyclist-motor vehicle collisions may help shift prevention efforts away from vulnerable road users to motorists and the environment. The overall aim was to investigate how police officers attribute blame in child (≤18 years) bicycle-motor vehicle collision scenarios.

Methods A document analysis approach was used to analyse Alberta Transportation police collision reports from Calgary and Edmonton (2016–2017). Collision reports were categorised by the research team according to perceived blame (child, driver, both, neither, unsure). Content analysis was then used to examine police officer language choices. A narrative thematic analysis of the individual, behavioural, structural and environmental factors leading to collision blame was then conducted.

Results Of 171 police collision reports included, child bicyclists were perceived to be at fault in 78 reports (45.6%) and adult drivers were perceived at fault in 85 reports (49.7%). Child bicyclists were portrayed through language choices as being irresponsible and irrational, leading to interactions with drivers and collisions. Risk perception issues were also mentioned frequently in relation to poor decisions made by child bicyclists. Most police officer reports discussed road user behaviours, and children were frequently blamed for collisions.

Conclusions This work provides an opportunity to re-examine perceptions of factors related to motor vehicle and child bicyclist collisions with a view to prevention.

  • enforcement
  • environmental modification
  • safe community
  • bicycle
  • driver
  • child

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data were provided by Alberta Transportation.

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Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data were provided by Alberta Transportation.

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  • Twitter @IanPike4, @dralisonmac, @MarieSoleil_C

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the planning and design of the study. TP, THR and BEH were responsible for data acquisition. LC, BL, JA, TMP, THR and BEH contributed to the analysis. LC was responsible for drafting the manuscript. All authors provided critical feedback on manuscript drafts. BEH is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding This study was funded by Department of Paediatrics Innovation Award, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.