U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
EDITORS AND CORRESPONDENTS
A crash is not an accident.
Changing the way we think about events and the words we use to describe them affects the way
we behave. Motor vehicle crashes occur "when a link or several links in the chain" are broken.
Continued use of the word "accident" implies that these events are outside human influence or
control. In reality, they are predictable results of specific actions.
Since we can identify the causes of crashes, we can take action to alter the effect and avoid
collisions. These are not Acts of God but predictable results of the laws of physics.
The concept of "accident" works against bringing all appropriate resources to bear on the
enormous problem of highway collisions. Use of "accident" fosters the idea that the resulting
damage and injuries are unavoidable.
"Crash," "collision," and "injury" are more appropriate terms, and we encourage their use as
substitutes for "accident."
Along with the Department's Research and Special Programs Administration, the Federal
Highway Administration has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in
declaring that the word "accident" will no longer be used in materials we publish, in speeches or
other statements, or in communications with the media and others.
George L. Reagle
Last updated September 18, 1997
Associate Administrator for Motor Carriers