Attention Ray Kelly: NYPD Still Using “Accident” to Describe Traffic Crashes

The NYPD web site and crash data reports don't reflect the post-"accident" policy announced by Ray Kelly in March.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that the word “accident” would be eliminated from the NYPD lexicon. Not only would the Accident Investigation Squad be rebranded as the Collision Investigation Squad, Kelly said, but “accident” would be changed to “collision” on all departmental materials.

In a letter to City Council transportation chair James Vacca, Kelly said what safe streets advocates have long wanted to hear from NYC’s top cop.

The term “collision,” which is utilized by other jurisdictions throughout the country, provides a more accurate description. In the past, the term “accident” has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event. The term “collision” will now be utilized in all relevant Department materials, forms and manuals.

From the outside, it appears the department has barely changed its terminology in the three months since Kelly’s announcement. The AIS is now the CIS, but NYPD still uses “accident” on monthly crash data reports, and on the department’s web site.

And in a recent interview with the Times, Highway Patrol chief Inspector Paul Ciorra used “accident” to describe a typical DWI hit-and-run, though such a crash would be a potential felony.

“These accidents out here, it’s not two drug dealers on a corner that shot each other … Almost every time here, it’s regular folk; it’s Mr. Jones who had maybe one too many beers, hit someone and fled the scene.”

Ray Kelly said it himself: words matter. This shift won’t permeate every level of NYPD right away, of course. But as the supervisor of the Collision Investigation Squad, if anyone else in the department should have adopted the NYPD’s new language, it would be Inspector Ciorra.

We have asked the NYPD Public Information office if or when “collision” will replace “accident” on the department’s web site and crash data reports.

  • Mark Walker

    NYPD and the mainstream media use the word accident to refer to even the most horrific car related crashes and killings. What if they used similar euphemisms to refer to the following?

    Murder = life reduction
    Assault = massage
    Sexual assault = touchy feely
    Terrorism = friendly persuasion
    Embezzlement of millions = borrowing a few pennies
    Pickpocketing = asset allocation
    Bankrobbery = financial consulting
    Mugging = cash advance
    Mugging victim = cash machine
    Identity theft = identity makeover
    Burglary = mi casa tu casa
    Bar fight = minor disagreement
    Infanticide = coochy coochy coo
    Public lewdness = show and tell
    Stabbing = aeration
    Shooting = target practice
    Drive-by shooting = fox hunting
    Poisoning = trick or treat
    Genital mutilation = the gift that keeps on giving
    Cancer = growth spurt
    Famine = munchies
    Fire = local warming
    Flood = terrestrial hydration
    Earthquake = what’s shakin’
    Bombing = firecracker
    Nuclear holocaust = hissy fit

  • ADN

    What’s clear, I think, is NYPD sees the need to change it’s public relations strategy re: motor vehicle collisions. We’ve succeeded in pushing them that far. But they have done very little to actually change their systems and practices. So, we get a sympathetic NYT story about how hard it is to be a Collision Investigation Squad officer. But we don’t see much of any real change in how he does his job, including the officer’s continued use of the word “accident.”


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