According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an accident is "an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance" and a crash is "a breaking to pieces by or as if by collision." These two words have different definitions and implications and are not very similar, so why would these words be used interchangeably?
When we call something an "accident" it implies that no one is at fault and that no one, including the driver, bears responsibility for the outcome. The term "crash," on the other hand, is more specific in terms of the action's outcome without the unpreventable implication.
It is vitally important that we use the right words to describe the situation, especially when inattention, distracted driving, and other avoidable actions are at the center of an incident.
Associated Press Revision
In 2016, the Associated Press revised its style guide to recommend that journalists use "crash, collision, or other terms" besides "accident" in auto crash reporting (at least until culpability is proven).
When negligence is claimed or proven, avoid accident, which can be read as exonerating the person responsible. #ACES2016
— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) April 2, 2016
- Crash Not Accident Podcast
- New York Times Article
- NPR Article
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Associated Press Stylebook