The wrong emphasis in crash reporting

In Victoria, culpable driving causing death is one of the most serious crimes in our society. So serious it carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Yet a recent article in The Age about the death of a bike rider, focused on street lighting rather than the alleged criminal behaviour of the driver.

At 12.20am Monday, Jarryd Currie, 28, from Deer Park tragically lost his life while riding his bike on Westwood Drive, Burnside Park after being hit by a Holden sedan which was allegedly driven by James Jonathan Guzman, 20.

On Tuesday, James Jonathan Guzman faced court after being charged with culpable driving causing death. He is due to return to court next Tuesday when he applies for bail.

Under the Crimes Act 1958, a person drives a motor vehicle culpably if they drive a motor vehicle:

  • recklessly, if they consciously and unjustifiably disregard the substantial risk that the death of another person or the infliction of grievous bodily harm upon another person may result from their driving;
  • negligently, if they fail unjustifiably and to a gross degree to observe the standard of care which a reasonable man would have observed in all the circumstances of the case. This includes driving when fatigued.
  • whilst under the influence of alcohol to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle; or
  • whilst under the influence of a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle.

Being charged with culpable driving causing death indicates that the police are alleging that Mr Guzman’s driving behaviour was of a very serious nature.

In an article published on The Age online on Tuesday 2 July titled, Man charged over road death of cyclist faces courtfocused on the opinions of local residents about the inadequate street lighting on Westwood Drive instead of the serious nature of the alleged driver’s behavior. 

Given the serious nature of the driving charges, why the article focused on street lighting is a mystery. Surely, The Age isn’t suggesting that street lighting is a valid defence to these serious charges? Highlighting it within the article is an unnecessary distraction from the fact that the driver of the vehicle has allegedly caused the death of a bike rider.

Bicycle Network has previously called out the media for their poor reporting of crashes that involve people riding bikes. Read our letter here. Regretfully, it just seems to continue. This crash was reported as "when he was knocked from his bike by a Holden sedan". 

The media has lead the way with the sensitivity with which it reports lives lost (particularly around suicide). It’s very upsetting that this doesn’t extend to people riding bikes.

This year is shaping as one of the worst for many years on Victorian roads.

We're only halfway through the year and a horrifying seven people have lost their lives while riding bikes where the five-year average is nine. Simply, we need to do more.

Recognising the serious nature of alleged criminal behavior is an important part of the solution.