Accident or Incident?


Photo Credit: Per Lööv

I come from a large family — number five of eight children. I’ve been told that because of the four siblings before me I was not allowed to crawl. They wanted me to walk right away. I believe that because I missed that stage in my development I don’t have a lot of grace. I told my mother she should have named me Grace so I would have had some.

I recently attended a meeting with representatives from the Federal Highway Department. One kept saying “accident” and was promptly corrected to say “incident” instead. I’ve always referred to a traffic collision as an “accident,” and it made me wonder what the big deal was. I guess the acronym TIM – traffic incident management – says exactly what a traffic collision is.

The November issue of Tow Times contained a feature article: “The Concept of Safety Revisited,” with a sidebar titled:

“Are Accidents Really Accidents?”

I didn’t think it was a coincidence that I had recently been reminded of saying incident instead of accident, and read the article. It’s time to re-program the towing and recovery industry’s thinking from “accident” to “incident.”

The article stated that an accident is “unintended, happens by chance, is unpredictable or without any apparent causeA traffic accident is not an accident at all. There was a definite cause or chain of events that occurred, setting up the incident to happen. If that is the case, the incident was also predictable and there was an opportunity to prevent it from happening.” This puts a different light on the meaning of accident and incident, and our profession needs to begin referring to a traffic collision not as an accident, but an incident.

And due to my lack of grace, maybe I should stop referring to myself as being accident-prone to incident-prone.