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Should The Term ‘Road Traffic Accident’ Be Changed?

13:38, 16/11/2015

Home » News & Knowledge » Should The Term ‘Road Traffic Accident’ Be Changed?

Road Traffic Accidents (RTA’s) is the phrase commonly used when referring to incidents that happen on the roads. These incidents can be life-changing, for those involved and also their loved ones and families.

The World Health Organisation states more than 1.2 million people die in road traffic collisions every year and as many as 50 million people are injured or disabled by crashes every year. Is the word ‘accident’ appropriate when referring to deaths and injuries that occur due to collisions on the road?

RoadPeace is a national charity for road crash victims and is urging the media and policymakers to stop using the word ‘accident’; and start using appropriate terminology such as crash, collision or incident when referring to instances that happen on the road.



Oxford dictionaries define an accident as ‘an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury’. An incident is defined as an instance of something happening; an event or occurrence. A collision is defined as an instance of one moving object or person striking violently against another and a crash is defined as where a vehicle collides violently with an obstacle or another vehicle.

Although most collisions are not premeditated, the definition of accident states unexpectedly and unintentionally which is not always correct in some incidents, for example, staged collisions. The accident also suggests it was beyond the control of the person at fault, which is usually not the case.

Moreover, regarding collisions due to dangerous driving such as speeding and drink driving; they may not be intentional, however, it is highly inappropriate to call them accidents as they were driving recklessly, it is likely they knew that their actions may result in injuring people.

‘Accident’ can be offensive to many people who have been bereaved or seriously injured due to reckless driving. Dropping a plate is an accident; which is seriously different to a crash; surely using the same word to describe a road traffic incident is wrong and insulting and something should be done about it.

The terminology regarding RTA’s should be changed: crash, collision, incident… but not an accident.

Further reading

For more information, take a look at our Road Traffic Accident (RTA) page.


For advice about your Road Traffic Accident claim, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.

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