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Editorial — Crash or accident?

There seems to be a lot of traffic crashes lately, and whether that’s attributable to the pandemic, a growing population or something else is anyone’s guess. The most likely explanation is that it’s the result of a lot of different factors.

There have not, however, been a lot of accidents lately — at least not if you ask the Virginia State Police.

That’s because the state police recently began a push for journalists to replace the word “accident” with “crash” when reporting on a traffic incident.

The reason for that request? Only rarely are traffic crashes truly accidental in nature, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya states in a paragraph she has recently begun appending to nearly all of her news releases about crashes on Virginia highways.

Most crashes are the result of a driver’s choice to, say, drive drunk or distracted, speed, run a stop sign or red light, make a sudden lane change too close to other vehicles, try to make it across the lanes before the cars that are coming or some other unsafe move.

Changing the way we talk about and write about these incidents is important, Anaya implies in her statement. It’s “just one small, but significant, part” of a comprehensive approach by the governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety. Changing the state’s “highway safety culture” could result in reduced fatalities and injuries on Virginia’s roads.

Whether this change in words could actually bring about safer roads in Virginia is impossible to know, although it can’t hurt. What would be better, though, is a change in behavior among drivers.

So while you may still see us use “accident” from time to time in addition to “crash” or “wreck,” to avoid repetitiveness, we implore all drivers to change the way they think about the choices they make when they’re driving. That is the real change that will make Virginia’s roads safer.