Associated Press Stylebook Says Don’t Call DUI Crashes “Accidents”
How we talk about road safety is related to how we think about it. A number of years ago advocates against impaired driving got fed up with how DUI crashes were termed “accidents” in the press. Their argument: if someone makes the decision to do something that is known by all to carry a heavy risk of disaster, that is not an accident.
So groups like We Save Lives and Crash Not Accident have worked to make governments and other agencies aware of the problem with calling a drunk driving collision or crash – a preventable occurrence – an accident. And now the Associated Press has taken notice and issued guidelines to correct the problem.
The AP stylebook is one of two manuals – the other is the Chicago Manual of Style – which guide writers on proper usage, nomenclature, and other matters of language. One of the purposes of a stylebook is to help writers avoid terms which demonstrate a writer’s bias – often unwittingly.
Calling a DUI crash an “accident” implies that it was a chance occurrence, one that could not be foreseen or prevented. The truth is that such disasters are indeed foreseeable and preventable. They’re foreseeable because we know the statistical likelihood that someone who drinks and drives will cause a crash. And it’s preventable because there are alternatives to drunk driving which are known to all, including the drivers themselves.
Here is the tweet from AP:
When negligence is claimed or proven, avoid accident, which can be read as exonerating the person responsible. #ACES2016
— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) April 2, 2016
It’s not much – just a single sentence – but it makes a difference to the victims of drunk drivers, and to road safety advocates who are seeking to prevent more lives being lost.
Even if you don’t work for a publication, it’s worth taking a leaf from the AP Stylebook. Don’t call DUI crashes “accidents.” They’re the result of a bad, reckless decision. Hats off to AP for recognizing that.