When a Car Runs a Light and Kills Someone, It’s Not an Accident (Updated, 8:05 A.M.)

Maybe the message that calling fatal crashes “accidents” that are  caused by negligence, distracted driving, DUI or some other form of negligence is finally catching on.

If you missed the news, yesterday three youths in a speeding BMW ran a red light, killed a pedestrian, caused a school bus to flip over and fled the scene.  The juvenile delinquents were caught by a construction crew and the three are now in a hospital being treated for injuries.  While researching the crash, I was surprised to see that most media outlets were reporting this horrific crash as just that, a crash, and not an “accident.”

Granted, the phrase “School Bus Crash” implies that the bus driver, and not the speeding youths, were at fault; but the absence of the word “accident,” at least in the headlines, is a good development.

But don’t worry, there is still plenty if shoddy headline writing on the crash.  Unfortunately, much of it is from the government.  Both The Source and the Mayor’s twitter account refer to the crash as an “accident” in their headlines.

The Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times

You can see more headlines after the jump.

##http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local-beat/Bus--105726353.html##KNBC##
##http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local-beat/Bus--105726353.html##KNBC##

Screen shot 2010-10-25 at 10.41.48 PM

##http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/index##KABC##
##http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/index##KABC##
##http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/##CBS2##
##http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/##CBS2##
##http://twitter.com/villaraigosa/status/28737683329##Villaraigosa's Twitter Feed##
##http://twitter.com/villaraigosa/status/28737683329##Villaraigosa's Twitter Feed##
##http://twitter.com/villaraigosa/status/28737683329##The Source##
##http://twitter.com/villaraigosa/status/28737683329##The Source##

Update: Stephen Box points out that the Times is using “accident” and “crash” interchangeably:

Screen shot 2010-10-26 at 8.05.16 AM

  • Leslie Thomas

    I totally agree – accidents do happen, but if drunk, drugged or distracted driving is involved, it is a CRASH. And I do wish the media would say that.
    And from all of the news articles that were listed above, the headlines do lead one to believe the school bus driver caused the crash – not the kids in the bmw.

  • KateNonymous

    The problem is that the involvement of the school bus, in any capacity, is what is distinctive about this story. A crash involving a school bus is not the same as a crash involving two cars. “School bus crash” is a shorthand that, while potentially inaccurate, does serve an actual purpose.

    But, yeah, it’s not an accident unless the car’s brakes failed without warning, or the driver had a heart attack, or something else that doesn’t happen in most cases.

  • Erik G.

    How about “Vehicle engineered for the speed-limit-free limited-access-roads of Germany used in an unsafe manner on local streets of Los Angeles and murders pedestrian”?

    Or is that libelous?

  • David Galvan

    I still think this semantics discussion is a waste of effort on the part of liveable streets advocates. It is possible to call a collision an “accident” because the causes have not yet been investigated and the at-fault party has not yet been prosecuted. Even if a drunk driver kills a pedestrian, I’m happy to call the event an accident, and still rally to have the person prosecuted for 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. Something being an accident says nothing about fault or whether the event was preventable.

    To me, “accident” only means there was no intent. And when I hear “there was an accident”, I do not immediately assume it could not have been prevented or no one was at fault, nor do, I suspect, most people. So I don’t really understand the crusade to change the semantics.

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