IAM RoadSmart backs alternatives to the term ‘accident’

By 10th April 2024May 22nd, 2024No Comments
Police road closed sign with police car blocking the road

Despite a 9% decline in UK road fatalities compared to the previous year, death and injury on the roads is arguably the single most neglected human development challenge. For decades, the term ‘Road Traffic Accidents’ has been commonplace to address road incidents – but is it a suitable term to use? Road incidents can be life changing for family and loved ones, who have now been placing pressure on Road Safety groups, policy makers, and the media to explore alternatives.

IAM RoadSmart have always maintained that the term ‘accident’ is not suitable when referring to road incidents in general. We’ve all heard the saying ‘accidents happen’, but is it good enough to fall back on – especially when considering workplace health and safety on the road?

An accident is defined as an ‘unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally’, typically resulting in damage and injury, or unfortunately sometimes death. Most collisions are not premeditated, but the definition ‘unexpectedly and unintentionally’ does not consider staged collisions. Most importantly, an accident suggests that it was beyond control of the person at fault, which is misleading. Take speeding and drink-driving for example; it is highly inappropriate to label them as accidents because of the recklessness involved with the driving behaviour. This is why ‘accident’ is often seen as offensive by families who have dealt with road incident trauma and bereavement.

In latest news (April 2024), a National Highways spokesperson announced they are “currently in a testing phase for alternative terminology” to the word ‘accident’. The move is welcomed by IAM RoadSmart, along with other road safety bodies.

Nicholas Lyes, Director of Policy and Standards at IAM RoadSmart, commented:

“Language matters and the reality is that many so-called ‘accidents’ are avoidable because they are caused by driver error. While they are unlikely to be deliberate, it is eminently sensible to move towards different labelling such as incidents or collisions.”

Although reliant on additional customer consensus – the new language, if adopted, could be in place as early as summer 2025.

Nick Simmons, CEO of RoadPeace, said:

“Changing language is vital to changing attitudes, and we thank National Highways for listening to our calls for reform and for playing its part in helping to change public perception around road harm.”

What are your thoughts: do you think the term ‘accident’ should be changed? Join the conversation here.

James Wallis

Author James Wallis

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