Op-Ed Western Canada

Incident, not Accident

Dedicated to Manitoba Emergency Services College, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

By: Anne Thompson

I have a big problem with the language many reporters choose to use in the media.  Specifically, I have a problem with on-air and print reporters communicating with the general public and using the “a” word.

I have worked as a Fire and Life Safety Public Education Coordinator and a volunteer firefighter/ambulance attendant.  Whenever inclement weather is occurring, Emergency Services Workers know – we can predict – there will be an increase in negatively-impacting motor vehicle incidents.


Such casual use of the “a” word gives drivers the mind-set of having a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.  “Oh,” a driver might muse, “I am not wholly responsible for this single vehicle roll-over that occurred while travelling at the posted speed limit as has been customary, even though the road conditions are horrendous.  It was an accident!”

All reporters’ and public speakers’ cooperation is greatly appreciated in guiding the mind-set of drivers so that their brains will be engaged before entering the vehicle, and that thoughts of vehicular damage and its associated cost and inconvenience, of physical pain, and of bleeding come to mind whenever a driver sets out with a vehicle during a time of inclement weather or dangerous driving conditions.

I am quite certain Emergency Services Workers across the Canada will appreciate the change in choice of words whenever reporting on motor vehicle INCIDENTS, ROLL-OVERS, CRASHES, MISHAPS, FENDER-BENDERS, or on the potential for these to occur.  Please feel free to choose from these aforementioned words as substitutes for the “a” word used so casually in the media – users seemingly not to fully understanding their power of influence over the general public’s choice of behaviour.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your efforts in cooperating with Emergency Services Workers in reducing the amount of damage and number and severity of injuries on Canada’s roadways.