Sgt. Troy Christianson from the Minnesota State Patrol works to educate the public on traffic safety. He says the last few years have been deadly on roads across the country and here in Minnesota, "Preliminary reports for Minnesota in 2021 were 501 traffic deaths, the highest since 2007." Christianson says the reason is clear, "Speeding has been a primary contributor since the start of the pandemic."

In his most recent "Ask A Trooper" column the State Trooper explains how traffic safety officials in the state have made a huge effort to eliminate the word accident when talking about car crashes. Now, accident vs. crash might not be a big deal to you, but it matters to traffic safety officials. Christianson shared a very interesting story about a court case from nearly 20-years ago that led to the shift in verbiage. Read that story below.

Accidents vs Crashes: The Court Case That Changed Everything

judge's gavel on desk in courtroom in Guatemala.

I am passionate about this topic and it is certainly intentional. The spark for this issue stems from a court trial from almost two decades ago involving the intentional ramming of a police vehicle, which resulted in the death of a police officer. During the trial, an attorney brought up the point that the incident was referred to by police in all of the reports as an “accident.” It also was reported by police on an “accident” report form, thus it was argued that the incident was not intentional and charges should be dismissed. I won’t get into the results of that trial, but ever since that time, traffic safety officials in the state have made a huge effort to influence everyone to use the word “crash” and not the word “accident."


Christianson continued by saying the word, "accident” tends to imply that no one is at fault and when used for a traffic crash, it could give the impression that what occurred was not important."

Sgt. Troy Christianson from the Minnesota State Patrol: Accidents vs Crashes

Car accident
Contributed by
Steve Frost

The State Trooper understands, "that anyone involved in a crash did not want it to happen and that it was most likely unintentional. But there is a reason why it happened; and most of the time it is from a person in control of a vehicle that has a momentary lapse in judgment or made an all-out destructive decision (impaired driving, reckless or aggressive driving, etc.) Even equipment issues (unsafe tires, obstructed vision, etc.) contribute to crashes and can be prevented."

Sgt. Troy Christianson from the Minnesota State Patrol: Accidents vs Crashes

What about the weather? In Minnesota, we often have to deal with less than ideal road conditions because of snow and ice.

Minnesota State Patrol photo
Minnesota State Patrol photo

Weather and slippery roads can be a factor but each and every driver is responsible for keeping control of their vehicle at all times. This is accountability and it starts with every person, every time they get behind the wheel. The choices we make and the choices we fail to make have consequences. You might be a very good driver, but we do share the road with other people making some poor decisions (impairment, distractions, aggressive driving, etc.)

Christianson urges people to slow down, pay attention, buckle up, and plan for a sober ride and buckle up. "You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention, and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths."

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson –

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