Colorado law enforcement investigated almost 100,000 auto accidents last year.

But, if you ask them, those 98,602 investigations were no accident.

Let me explain.

I get plenty of press releases each day with varying degrees of interest. Sometimes, the most interesting thing about the release doesn’t pop out right away. Such was the case recently with a routine release from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

You know it well, too. A holiday approaches, especially one that people celebrate with a seltzer or other buzzy beverage, and police do extra DUI patrols.

Law enforcement agencies put out press releases to tell Colorado residents to be safe out there and that they’ll be out there, too, watching the roads (well, drivers, technically).

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Please don't use the word 'accident'

One such release recently came to my inbox. And there, at the bottom of the press release, was this note to reporters:

“Crashes are no accident — they are preventable. We would appreciate you saying 'crash' instead of 'accident' when reporting.”

We citizens have been using the word “accident” since, well, forever.

You’re late to work, well, because of the accident mucking up traffic.

You slow down and looky-loo at the smallest of accidents, wondering what happened.

And you marvel at how many accidents happen at certain intersections. (You know, like 57th and U.S. 287 in Loveland.)

Collision, Crash, Wreck or Accident?

Journalists learn early in their careers not to use the word “accident.” Instead, I learned long ago to opt for the word “collide” so as not to assign blame. For instance, “The blue and red cars collided.” Not “The blue car hit the red car.”

Therein lies the rub. Ultimately, after police investigate the wreck, they often find a cause. And that cause most likely isn’t an accident at all. Or, so they would say.

RELATED: Do Red-Light Cameras Change Driver Behavior?

Distracted driving. Drunken driving. Rushed and rule-breaking driving. These are choices, not accidents, Colorado law enforcement says.

Top 5 Causes of Auto Accidents in Colorado

According to the Colorado State Patrol, in 2023, these were the top causes of fatal and injury car crashes in Colorado. 

The total does not add up to 100 percent, as other varieties of car wreck causes in Colorado combined for a total of 32.03 percent of injury and deadly accidents.

Gallery Credit: Christine Kapperman

LOOK: Most dangerous states to drive in

Stacker used the Federal Highway Administration's 2020 Highway Statistics report to rank states by the fatalities per billion miles traveled. 

Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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