Thank you to Jo Shiner, Chief Constable of Sussex Police and the NPCC lead for Roads Policing, for so genuinely and passionately supporting the RoadPeace Challenge, and in particular our Crash Not Accident Day of the RoadPeace Challenge.
The word accident’ suggests something unintentional, and beyond control. It is, as one of our members has said, a description with an excuse embedded within it. The phrase “it was just an accident” serves both as a claim of innocence and as an exoneration. Use of the term ‘accident’ is inappropriate until all the facts of the case are known.
Collisions are commonly referred to as accidents, by the media and in day-to-day life. It’s something we’ve always done. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue to use this language.
Planes and trains do not have ‘accidents’ – they crash. Changing language is vital to change attitudes.
As Chief Constable Shiner says:
“Language is incredibly important for victims and their families.The word ‘accident suggests that something was unavoidable and beyond control, yet we know the majority of road crashes are avoidable or preventable. By continuing to use the word ‘accident’ we continue to normalise road crashes as an inevitable consequence of our road use; which of course, they are not.
“RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, is calling for society to abandon the word ‘accident’ when referring to a road collision. The words ‘crash’ or ‘collision’ are far more neither imply guilt or innocence, but both are far more appropriate words to describe these devastating events. But both are far more appropriate words.
“Next time, think crash, not accident. Because changing language is vital to changing minds.”
Find out more about our Crash Not Accident campaign here.
Laura Laker is a freelance Active Travel journalist who wrote the Road Collision Reporting Guidelines with the University of Westminster.
Her report states that, with a little guidance on reporting, from avoiding language that prematurely attributes blame or risk, to providing context on wider road safety issues and trends, publishers can help provide clarity on the issues. This includes avoiding use of the term ‘accident’, which can inadvertently depict crashes as unavoidable, as well as by characterising road users as people, rather than simply the vehicles they use.
Updated on: 16 May 2023