The City of Alexandria and Alexandria Police have stopped using the term “accident” to describe traffic crashes or collisions. The term “accident” implies no one was at fault — that traffic injuries and deaths are just random, unpreventable occurrences. When no one is at fault, we tend to just move on and accept the outcomes. More than 30 cities in the U.S., including Alexandria, have taken a different approach; they have publically stated that traffic fatalities and serious injuries as both preventable and unacceptable. We applaud the mayor and City Council members for taking this position, as proclaimed in their Jan. 24, 2017 Vision Zero policy. We also greatly appreciate that our city government and police have used the term crash, not accident for the past few years.
We have seen that the media, from time to time, has described a vehicle fatality as an accident but we respectfully suggest that the term “crash” is more appropriate. Words matter, and the way traffic crashes are framed has a powerful impact on how they are perceived. For example, recognizing that traffic fatalities and serious injuries are preventable is a first step in encouraging more thorough investigations to identify both extenuating factors and appropriate solutions.
We would greatly appreciate it if the Alexandria Gazette Packet would confirm the practice of using either “crash” or “collision” as the preferred term, instead of “accident,” and acknowledge that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable and unacceptable. Over time, more of us will become accustom to using the term “crash” not “accident,” as we work together to make our streets safer.
Mike Doyle is a founding member of Alexandria Families for Safe Streets, a grassroots coalition of traffic crash victims, family members and other concerned citizens for street safety.