As advocates and even the Associated Press move away from calling all traffic incidents “accidents” there’s one important state agency that shows no signs of ridding itself of the controversial word. And unfortunately it just so happens to be the one agency that every single licensed driver has contact with: the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.
A few weeks ago I paid a visit to the DMV office in downtown Portland. As I walked in I noticed a wall rack full of forms and one of them stared back at me: “Accident Report” it read. It made my language and activism hairs stand on end. As many of you already know, there are a lot of reasons why the word “accident” should never be used in the context of vehicle interactions on streets. For starters, calling something an “accident” makes a huge assumption that the crash was unavoidable and unintentional. And if that isn’t reason enough, the term dismisses the pain of crash victims.
When I got home from the DMV I pulled up the DMV website and there was that word again, splashed all over the page. From local to regional to statewide government, I haven’t seen any transportation-related agency use the term “accident” so much. I had to ask the DMV about it.