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

Monday, October 26, 2015

The definition of "accident" - a closer look.

We hear a lot from reporters who defend use of the word “accident” by saying that no-one crashes intentionally.  But let’s look at the definition.    When you Google “accident definition” this is what you get.

an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.

So lets break this down.

Unexpectedly – Drunk, drugged, negligent, and criminal driving crashes are not unexpected.   A driver may not intend to crash, but the resulting crashes, and the tragic results, are wholly predictable. 

Apparent or Deliberate Cause – The causes of most crashes are apparent.   There is little doubt when a driver is drunk, drugged, distracted and/or speeding as to the cause. 

In 2013 alcohol-impaired driving crashes accounted for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.  Approximately 10% of motor vehicle fatalities result from Distracted Driving.  Some data indicate that as much of 90% of crashes result from human error, or poor decisions.  These are not “accidents”.

“Accidents” are rare.  Crashes are common. 

There certainly are “accidents”, but reporters make a mistake when they use the word “accident” as a ubiquitous description of all crashes.   By definition an accident is an “act of god”.  A tree falling on a car, or a crash resulting from a mechanical failure could be defined as “accidents”.


  1. This reporter does an excellent job rebutting you.

  2. This reporter does an excellent job rebutting you.

  3. Chris, he does make an intelligent argument about the definition, but he misses the larger point. I had an interaction with him on Twitter the next day in which he stated agreement with us that reporters should not call an incident and "accident" unless they are able to clearly state the circumstances of a crash. If they don't know it's an "accident" they should not call it that. And the fact is, when traffic reporters and general assignment reporters use the word accident they almost NEVER know the details of an incident. Our larger point stands, which the author of this post agrees with, reporters should avoid the word "accident" in most cases.

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  5. I had an interaction with him on Twitter the next day in which he stated agreement with us. Compass Claims is a huge name which is providing insurance services in all sectors.

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