In a current question, How do I stop people blaming me for a crash? the OP described their collision as an accident and described themselves not at fault.

Given that an edit was made and remains, to remove all mention of the word accident and to include the tag 'crash', it shows we don't entertain the notion of an accident.

So do we revert the changes to how the OP described their own experience (fair) and perhaps explain in comments how crash might be a constructive word they could choose to use instead, or do we need to get rid of the accident tag?

Seems to me if someone isn't allowed to use the word accident, there's no need for the tag


3 Answers 3


I think the cause of the issue is as follows.

  • Some people think that the term "accident" is appropriate since it's pretty clear that neither party deliberately caused the collision. For example, Oxford Dictionaries' primary definition of "accident" is "An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury" and they give "A crash involving road or other vehicles" as a specific defining example.

  • Other people think that "accident" is inappropriate because it suggests that nobody was to blame and nothing could have been done to avoid it. For example, Wikipedia says, in an article that's mostly about motor vehicle collisions, "This is because the term 'accident' implies that there is no-one to blame, whereas most traffic collisions are the result of driving under the influence, excessive speed, distractions such as mobile phones or other risky behavior."

  • On the gripping hand, Merriam-Webster's definition of "accident" includes "an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance" with "was involved in a traffic accident" as a specific example of this.

I tend slightly towards the "accident suggests blamelessness" camp, though I guess my cut-off is that if the parties were merely negligent rather than reckless, then I don't have any real objection to "accident". On the other hand, it's hard to object to "crash" or "collision", except on grounds that they're not the words the OP chose.

Since I feel that both camps have a decent argument, my recommendation would be that we should probably stick with the OP's phrasing.

  • +1 to your conclusion. In particular as since there was no decision by a court of law saying otherwise one has to assume blamelessness of all involved parties. – The OP certainly chose their words with care and purpose.
    – gschenk
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 9:02
  • Useful definitions and discussion. Funnily enough I think I've now reached a conclusion which is different. I'll write it up and we'll have things to vote on
    – Swifty
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 10:03

I've had time to mull it over and will present a point of view, attempting to be succinct.

Accident is a word which we use to describe an unintended consequence. It suggests in normal usage that there was no-one who did anything wrong, it just happened.

Words like crash, or collision, describe an event which happened, but do not attribute blame (or lack thereof) themselves. They are neutral.

In order to promote safety for all road (or off-road) users, it's important to recognise that crashes have at least one root cause, even if it was non-deliberate. That way we can learn from the event and attempt to improve in future. Using the word 'accident' discourages reflection and improvement.

In our example, OP using the word accident absolves both parties of blame. Even with a neutral standpoint, there must be some root cause(s) of the collision, which can be learnt from.

I don't see sufficient foreseeable cases to justify keeping the accident tag, whilst also pursuing safer roads for all road users. Crash is the word to use.


Is the goal here to make this post more easily findable through tagging, or to make a philosophical point?

If the former, then the tags should account for the way normal people use language. The incident reported is something that a lot of people would call an "accident." That would militate in favor of including the "accident" tag.

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