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Push to use car 'crash' not 'accident' emphasizes driver responsibility

FILE: A car crash on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Atomic Hot Links via Flickr
FILE: A car crash on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles.

This week the Associated Press issued new guidelines for journalists, including a call to think twice before using the word "accident" to describe car collisions.

The change is one road safety advocates have been pushing for years. There's even a website,, where people can sign a pledge to stop using the word "accident."

"The term accident is sort of like 'Oops, you know this could happen to anybody,'" said Nat Gale, who directs the Vision Zero program for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

Vision Zero, adopted by L.A. last year, is an international initiative that aims to eliminate traffic deaths, in part by changing the conversation around road safety.

"Traffic crashes, traffic collisions are not accidents — they’re preventable tragedies," said Gale. "When we use a term 'accident,' we’re not focused on some of the root causes that we need to address."

Those causes, said Gale, include driver inattention and poor road design that encourages dangerous behavior like speeding or failing to yield to pedestrians.

Officials are currently studying conditions on roads that see the city's highest crash rates and implementing modifications like crosswalk lights that give walkers a head start, or curb bulb-outs that offer pedestrians more room and force drivers to make slower, wider turns.

They also plan a marketing campaign later this year — and you can bet it won't include the word "accident."

What do you think of selecting "crash" or "collision" over "accident"? Tell us below in the comments or tell us your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook.