Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
"Accidents"

Even When a Driver Intentionally Causes Mayhem, Media Call It an “Accident”

A witness described seeing the driver of this Prius back up intentional over the other car, but CBS LA improperly persisted in referring to this as an "accident." Image: CBS LA
A witness described seeing the driver of this Prius intentionally back up over the other car, but CBS LA persisted in referring to it as an "accident." Image: CBS LA
A witness described seeing the driver of this Prius back up intentional over the other car, but CBS LA improperly persisted in referring to this as an "accident." Image: CBS LA

The New York Police Department stopped using the term "accident" to refer to car collisions because it conveys the "connotation that there is no fault or liability." In the press, however, "accident" remains standard practice, even when a driver rams another person on purpose.

The Safe Roads Alliance, an organization that promotes safe driving, tracked down five examples just from the last few weeks where media outlets referred to intentional collisions as "accidents" (the reports also tend to say the crashes were perpetrated by vehicles, not the human beings who drive them). Here are the pieces they sent along, with the headline that ran with each story.

Seattle Times: "Road Rage Incident Leaves 1 Dead on I-5"

According to the Seattle Times, the driver of a Chevy SUV pulled in front of the driver of Dodge Neon on I-5, apparently enraged at his slow speed. The SUV driver proceeded to "brake check," causing the collision. A 23-year-old passenger in the Neon was killed, and three others were injured. Both drivers are being charged with vehicular homicide, and yet the Seattle Times goes on to say: "The State Patrol is seeking information regarding the accident."

WHIO: "I-70 Crash: Wrong-Way Driver Had a Criminal Past"

A 35-year driver was killed after going the wrong way on an Ohio freeway and colliding with a semi-truck. A witness to the crash reported the driver, Chris A. Coleman, appeared bent on suicide, speeding through a U-turn in the highway median and then driving into the path of the semi. Nevertheless, WHIO twice refers to the collision as an "accident" in its report.

CBC News North: "Whitehorse Police Seek Driver Involved in 'Road Rage' Collision"

The original report from the Canadian Broadcasting Company referred to a hit-and-run road-rage collision as an "accident." The crash apparently followed a verbal altercation and short chase, and was the result of brake-checking. After a commenter objected to the use of the word "accident," the language has since been changed on this one, so good on the CBC.

CBS Los Angeles: "Did Road Rage Lead to Prius Piggybacking Another Car?"

This article, about the collision shown above, includes testimony from a witness saying the Prius driver intentionally backed over the other car. That person is referred to as "a witness to the accident."

Aspen Daily News: "Murder Suspect May Have Tried to Kill Himself in Car Accident"

Pin this one on the headline writer. Arturo Navarrete-Portillo was badly injured in a wreck in mid-February. Reports about the incident unsealed this week revealed that Navarrete-Portillo had essentially admitted that he intentionally tried to harm himself in the crash, according to the Aspen Daily News. Still, the news outlet call it an "accident."

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

The Paris Plan for Olympic Traffic? Build More Bike Lanes

A push to make Paris fully bikable for the Olympics is already paying dividends long before the opening ceremonies.

July 25, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Face Our Fears

What happens if Republicans win the trifecta in November? Judging by the GOP-controlled House budget, a lot less money for transit, Smart Cities Dive reports.

July 25, 2024

N.Y. Gov Must Put Up or Shut Up on Congestion Pricing, New Senate Transportation Chair Says

Gov. Hochul must produce a "100-day plan" to replace the $16.5 billion MTA funding shortfall created by her decision to cancel congestion pricing.

July 24, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines Are in a Good Place

How should we react to public indifference about the danger cars pose to society? Perhaps a sitcom has something to teach us.

July 24, 2024

Opinion: Is Kamala Harris ‘The Climate President We’ve Been Waiting For’?

Kamala Harris fought hard for a better transportation plan in the San Diego region despite big political risks. If elected president, will she do the same for the country?

July 24, 2024
See all posts