Drop The "A" Word - Not all crashes are accidents

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Associate Press Statement on Reporters Use of Word "Accident"

The AP Stylebook is the bible of style and usage in the US news industry, including newspapers magazines, broadcasters, bloggers and PR firms.  Reporters, editors and others use the AP Stylebook as a guide for grammar, punctuation and practices of reporting.

In 2013, Stylebook Editors answered a question from a user about the use of the word "accident". 

Q: I've always written traffic "crash", not "accident" because the latter seems to imply fault.  But increasingly I see people calling crashes accidents.  Does it matter?

A: Yes, avoid terms that might suggest a conclusion.  

This supports our statement that the word "accident" should only be used when an investigation has determined the circumstances of an incident.  Until intent, or lack of criminal behavior has been determined, reporters should not use the word "accident" because is states a conclusion.  

Certainly there are "accidents".  However, assuming that every crash is an "accident" is insulting to victims and survivor of crashes. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Minnesota State Trooper Q&A - The difference between an "accident" and a "crash"

Question: As a traffic safety official, I am very upset that people don’t realize that there is some significance as to what is going on with using the term “crash” as compared to using the word “accident” in news articles and other media. I see both terms used and I personally know that there is some intentionality about this. I know that you use the word crash for a reason, so can you do an article about this issue so that we can get everyone on the same page?

Answer: There is indeed something going on, and intentionally for the most part. The spark for this issue stems from a court trial from more than a decade ago involving the intentional ramming of a police vehicle, which resulted in the death of a police officer. During the trial, an attorney brought up the point that the incident was referred to by police in all of the reports as an “accident.” It also was reported by police on an “accident” report form, thus it was argued that the incident was not intentional and charges should be dismissed. I won’t get into the results of that trial, but ever since that time, traffic safety officials in the state have made a huge effort to influence everyone to use the word “crash” and not the word “accident.”

Read the rest of the story here in The Fergus Falls Daily Journal

Author - Minnesota State Police Trooper Jesse Grabow

Follow on Twitter - @MSPPIO_NW 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For Prosecutors Word Choice Matters: Crash vs. Accident

By Brandon Hughes (@alabamaTSRP)

Alabama Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor

As prosecutors, we must recognize that when we deliver an opening statement, closing argument or when we stand before a judge at sentencing - Word Choice Matters. Words have impact. Words evoke images and even stir emotions. Take for instance the words “Crash” and “Accident”. These two words are often used to describe the same event, but in reality each word conjures up a very different image. Any event involving a vehicle and a collision, whether another vehicle is involved or not, is frequently referred to as a traffic accident, one of life’s little mishaps.

Let’s consider this scenario. A car runs a red light and collides with another vehicle in the intersection. Just another traffic accident, right? Now, consider that the driver who ran the red light is driving 70 mph in a 45 mph zone.  Still an accident? Suppose that same driver also had a blood alcohol content of 0.14. Would your answer be the same?

An accident is something that cannot be reasonably foreseen or predicted and cannot be avoided. It just happens. A crash, on the other hand, is the result of choices made and risks disregarded. 

Read the full blog post here