It’s a Crash, Not an Accident

June 5, 2024

By Tom Arsenault

Merriam-Webster defines a Car “Crash” as “the instance of a car colliding with another vehicle or with an object” whereas an “Accident” is defined as “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” For a long time, the traffic safety world has used the word “Accident” when describing when vehicles Crash into each other. 

When I took my first Crash Reconstruction Course in 1987, one thing I remember was the instructor (an engineer from Michigan State University) explaining the difference between a crash and an accident. He said, “As members of the traffic safety community, we need to drop the ‘A’ word.”

Word choice matters, and a large community of people in the traffic safety world advocate for the use of the word “Crash” versus “Accident” in reference to vehicle collisions. They believe that  using the term “Accident” in reference to a collision can mislead people to believe that fatalities from car collisions can’t be prevented or avoided since they are  inevitably accidents.

Automobile crashes and related injuries are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 1 to 44. The top causes of road crashes are distracted driving, poor street conditions, impaired driving, excessive speeding, and negligence on the part of the drivers. All of these causes are preventable.

Reducing motor vehicle crash deaths was one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century for the US. However, still, more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes nationally.

Today, a growing number of companies, organizations, and people are joining the “Crash Not Accident” movement by taking a stand to say that words do matter and that there is an important difference between the two terms—crash vs. accident.

As a committed Traffic Incident Management Member I find this change of perspective leads to a more precise conversation when two cars collide. In our experience, negligence unfortunately plays a prominent role in most Florida car crashes, and changing the narrative will hopefully create a dialogue that increases awareness about the preventability of these crashes.

Remember, it was a crash, not an accident.  I hope you and your family are never in one.

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