After seven years of advocacy, the Philadelphia Police Department responded to numerous requests from Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia and the Bicycle Coalition to abandon the name “Accident Investigation Division” and rename the unit with one that is more respectful to the victims of traffic violence.
At the October 6, 2022 press conference announcing the Vision Zero Annual Report 2022, Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore of the Police Department announced that “by eliminating the word accident in the name we will be aligning with the language of Title 75 in the motor vehicle code that mandates that police respond to all scenes of crashes”. While that reasoning is a bit odd, we’ll take it! The arguments we made to the Police Department in numerous letters and meetings since 2015 was that “accident” was disrespectful to the memories of victims of traffic violence because by most measurements, victims died because of reckless human behavior or poor road design, not the fault of ‘no one’.
“Accident” alleviates the driver, road engineer or motor vehicle manufacturer from responsibility. The term “crash,” on the other hand, is more specific in terms of the action’s outcome without the unpreventable implication. There is a nationwide campaign to rid the term accident from being associated with traffic crashes.
Most Vision Zero Communities, which Philadelphia is considered one of, abandoned the word “accident” from their traffic investigation units years ago. It is long overdue for Philadelphia to join their peers in an effort to help shift public perception that contributing factors of traffic violence bear no responsibility for taking a life and inflicting damage on so many communities. This is a big win for Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, which has been raising this issue with the Kenney Administration at every opportunity since its formation in 2018.