Posted by Jeff Larason
Prior to working in roadway safety I spent many years as a
Traffic Reporter. I worked with DOT’s
around the country setting up 511 systems and overseeing Traffic Operations
Centers. In those jobs I used the word
“accident” literally tens of thousands of times. It never crossed my mind that the word was wrong.
I am a member the Traffic Reporters Group on Facebook. There have been several discussions within the
group regarding whether it’s correct for traffic reporters to call crashes “accidents”. There are smart, thoughtful, professional reporters with opinions on
both sides of the subject. Below is a
snapshot of some of discussion.
Note - I’ve removed identifying photos and names from the commenters and
edited for brevity. I’ve tried to keep
the spirit of their comments, and hope I have represented their statements accurately.
MW - Prove
it WASN'T an accident. Accident is
perfectly fine. It's part of the lexicon.
KB - Even
though someone is drunk or drugged they still do not intend to get in a crash.
Therefore it’s still an accident. Neglectful yes, but not intentional. Every
incident is unintentional. It is simply
part of a traffic reporters vernacular and has been forever. Everyone listening
knows what it means.
MH - If
you want to call it a crash or collision. Go for it. I won't tell you you're
wrong. But don't tell me I'm wrong to
call it an accident. It is what the
average person in the world calls it and that's my audience. It is the most
conversational term for what frequently happens on the road. It is, also, by definition, the correct term
about 99.99% of the time. In the common
vernacular of a listening audience it's correct 100%. Your issue with it is that you ascribe all
this deeper meaning to it that I don't think has any basis in provable fact.
Calling an accident an accident when it ultimately involves a DUI or texter or
whatever other poor behavior does not, tell people it's okay to engage in said
behavior. It does not excuse those that do and I can't possibly see that anyone
would think it does because they hear me say whilst driving about in the
Further, the main point of my argument falls into the
"common parlance" arena. I'm speaking to audience who cares about
getting from point A to point B and the word they would use is accident.
TK - We
always called them accidents or incidents. We had no idea who or what caused
EG - Anyone with half a brain knows that "accident"
means (in this context) "at least one car collided with something".
SS - The
listeners don't care what we call it. They care if we have the backup wrong.
EG - For
the purposes of a traffic report, I'd call them accidents, since there usually
isn't the time (or need) for details. If I were writing a piece for a
newspaper, website, or blog, on the other hand, I might even avoid using terms
like accident or crash altogether.
SS - Now
if you can prove in the moment that a crash was intentional, you have a point
in not calling it an accident. But in the moment of reporting we often don't
have that luxury. And in the end the
listener only cares if it's still there in their way and will they be late.
They really don't care what we call it, and the word accident is a recognizable
term to them..
ND - I
got an angry phone call at one point. The
woman on the other end was upset because she said the term "crash"
PS - It's
an accident until proven otherwise.