New York DMV No Longer Describes Traffic Crashes as “Accidents” [Updated]

The current DMV data archive page ...
... and the page as it appeared in June 2012.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out to us that the New York State DMV has stopped using the word “accident” in its annual statistical summaries.

On its 2011 data web page, and in each of its 2011 reports, DMV refers to traffic crashes as “crashes.” “Accident” does not appear in any of the agency’s 2011 materials. The header on the statistical summaries archive page was also changed from “Motor Vehicle Accidents” to “Motor Vehicle Crashes.”

To describe a traffic crash as an accident is to relieve all parties of responsibility. Though there are laws against drinking and driving, for example, as of 2010 the DMV listed alcohol-involved crashes among “accidents with human factors.”

Even when a motorist uses a car as a weapon, the media can’t break the habit. “It looked like the accident happened intentionally,” said a local reporter of a 2008 crash in the Bronx, in which a driver mowed down a man after an argument.

DMV communications staff couldn’t tell us why the change was made at this particular time, but said they expected the agency will use “crash” from now on. The department gave us this statement:

A vehicle crash encompasses a wider range of potential causes than does the term accident. An accident implies something that is not preventable. A majority of crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless drivers and, therefore, are not accidents. That is why the term “crashes” is used not only by the New York State DMV, but also by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Good stuff. Today the DMV, tomorrow the Daily News.

(h/t to Keegan Stephan of Time’s Up!)

Update: Thanks to Transportation Alternatives, which urged the DMV to make this change.

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