Car “Crash” or “Accident”?

Posted: March 21, 2023

Some people differ on whether a car collision should be called a “crash” or “accident.”  


Believe it or not, there is a difference between the two, and people are taking sides over which is the more appropriate word for referencing a violent, roadway mashup of steel and glass. 


The debate is informed by the nuances of connotation and boils down to a question of personal responsibility. Because the word “accident,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance,” implies nobody involved is at fault, some maintain it isn’t an appropriate characterization of events that are almost invariably caused by human error. 


Human error, negligence, or recklessness causes most traffic accidents. That was the finding of a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving drunk, speeding, or texting while driving is not like hitting a deer that darts into the road or skidding on a patch of black ice; it’s a wrong choice, and illegal, and someone, safety advocates say, is to blame. 


Nearly 10,000 people died in car crashes just in the first quarter of 2022, according to estimates of car accident fatalities released by NHTSA. This is a 7% increase over the 8,935 deaths reported in the same quarter in 2021. 


This would be the highest number of first-quarter fatalities reported since 2002.  

Campaign to “Say Crash, Not Accident” 

To encourage people to stop using the word “accident,” New York City-based advocacy groups Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, a subset of Transportation Alternatives, created a campaign called Say Crash, Not Accident.” The groups’ argument: Using the term “accident” makes crashes seem inevitable, not preventable. 


The campaign compares the convention of using the word “accident” to refer to factory workers injured in unsafe conditions to using the word “crash” to reference a plane’s going down. 


Some of their campaign points include 

  • Intoxicated drivers used to say “it was an accident” before the movement to combat drunk driving. 
  • Dangerous streets and unsafe driving are fixable, preventable problems. 
  • “Let’s stop using the word ‘accident’ today.” 

Families for Safe Streets aims to end the “epidemic of traffic violence.” Since 1973 Transportation Alternatives has pursued a similar mission of making streets safer for those who walk and bicycle to get around. 

Efforts to Change How We Talk About Car “Crashes” 

New York City created the Vision Zero Action Plan to reduce fatalities. This plan states that the city “must no longer regard traffic crashes as ‘accidents.’” This 2014 measure stemmed from the growing number of fatalities in New York City and the fact that vehicles seriously injure or kill a New Yorker every two hours. 


Also, the Associated Press updated its stylebook to advise journalists, writers, editors, students, and professionals to avoid using the word “accident” and instead use the term “accident” or “crash” because the term “accident” could be seen as “exonerating the person responsible.” 


As the debate over the word “accident” illustrates, words have connotations as well as meanings. Sometimes those connotations can have legal implications. When a car collision could have been prevented with reasonable care, the person who caused it can be found legally responsible. If that failure to exercise reasonable care caused someone’s injuries, the injured person may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. 


To build a strong car accident injury claim after you sustain personal injuries on New York roads, there are several important things for you—or your lawyer—to do as soon as possible.  


An accident attorney can answer any questions you may have and help you gather evidence to support your case, ensure that your injuries are documented, file forms, understand insurance company tactics, and determine the amount of compensation to which you may be entitled. An experienced attorney, who is focused on protecting the rights of car crash victims, can help ensure the right steps are taken on time, so you can concentrate on getting better. 

Hurt in a car? Call William Mattar. 

Motor vehicle accidents cases can be complex. William Mattar, P.C. has more than two decades of experience helping car crash injury victims throughout New York State. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. today. Call (844) 444-4444 or complete a free initial consultation form now. 

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