Reply To: Accident versus Crash

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Posted: Jul/01/2016 at 10:30am – author:JeffLarason
It’s a question of accuracy.  Not all crashes are “accidents”.   While it’s also true that not all incidents are crashes, at least crash does not make a statement of personal fault, blame, intent.  “Accident” says something about the actions and behaviors of the people involved – crash, collision, wreck do not.  

The Associated Press has directed media reporters to avoid using “accident” in any crash event in which negligence is claimed or proven.  This is a statement that drunk, drugged, distracted, high speed, aggressive and other negligent crashes should not be called “accidents”.  Not to mention that intentional events (road rage, murder, vehicular suicide) are in no way “accidents”.  
In calling an incident “accident” we make a statement about the circumstances, and the mindset of the involved parties.  We are stating that there was no negligence and that there was no intent.  Again, in some cases this may be true, but we should not use a word that states this assumption.  Crash does not  make any accusation or implication of guilt, fault or blame.  It is a neutral statement regarding a physical circumstance.  
In addition to AP, as noted in other comments, NHTSA and AAMVA have long standing policies with regard to avoiding the word, as does the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  
Words have meaning.  We should use a word that most accurately reflects the circumstances and represents our knowledge of that circumstance.  I most cases we know it’s an crash, we don’t know that it’s an “accident”. 
Jeff Larason


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