Reply To: Accident versus Crash

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Posted: May/19/2016 at 10:48am – author:rscopatz
The term “crash” has been promoted versus “accident” by NHTSA for decades now. The problem with “accident” is not how it’s defined within ANSI D16.1, 7th edition and prior. The problem is that its common usage carries connotations of an event that is unavoidable or unforeseeable, and thus unpreventable; none of which is true of the crashes (or accidents) we study. I realize that in the safety industry, “accidents”  are not treated that way at all, and as a professional standard we could be safe in using the term. However, D16 has a wider audience and interacts with other guidance or standards that we should be mindful of. One such field is injury surveillance and prevention from the medical/epidemiological side. This is, at least in part, where the move away from “accident” and toward “crash” came from originally as the NHTSA administrator who was the impetus for this change was a medical doctor. His point was that how the word “accident” is understood in the community matters to how these events are treated in legislatures, safety programs, and so on. He was correct about that, and so the terminology shifted.

The shift is a done deal. States call their databases “crash records systems.” Law enforcement officers fill out a “police crash report” at the scene (although, there are still some forms that say “accident”, this is a waning thing).

Ultimately, I think the best course of action would be to get an electronic (searchable) copy of D16 and do a markup of all places where the term “accident” would change to “crash” and also look at any pre-existing uses and definitions of both “accident” and “crash” in the standard’s 7th edition. This could be the work of an afternoon for one person. Then, we could decide as a group whether the changes proposed make sense or add to the confusion.

Edited by rscopatz – May/19/2016 at 10:59am

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