why they’re called accidents – and how to change

Why

Car crashes are called accidents in part because that’s the official international classification.  The system is called International Classification of Diseases (ICD).  It assigns a category for every possible cause of death.

In ICD10 the categorization is:

External causes of morbidity and mortality
– subsection Accidents
— subsubsection Transport Accidents (V01-V99)

one can also include Y85 Sequelae of transport accidents, which basically means the car crash was the initial cause, but the death came later.

The issues are

1) The mid-category “Accidents” is reported, not the actual category “Transport Accidents”
2) It shouldn’t be called accidents in the case of transport
3) Transport deaths are in the same subcategory as falling down, when they are clearly qualitatively different

In ICD11 beta this is improved, but still problematic:

External causes of morbidity and mortality
– Unintentional causes
Transport injury events

This is better but still obscures the magnitude of transport injury. The fix is very simple.  You move Transport injury events up one level

External causes of morbidity and mortality
– Transport injury events

This may seem like nit-picking, but car crashes are a larger cause of death than malaria or tuberculosis.  Car crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 15-24 in Canada.  This shouldn’t be buried three levels down.

How to change

The ICD11 beta was opened to the public in May 2012 but you can still participate in the revision.  Information here http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/revision/en/

Be aware that it will be very very difficult to get the classification changed.