NYPD will increase the number of officers assigned to investigate serious traffic crashes, and will revise protocols that denied the possibility of justice to thousands of victims of vehicular violence, according to a letter from Commissioner Ray Kelly to the City Council. In another major shift, the department will stop using the word "accident" to describe traffic crashes, and the Accident Investigation Squad will soon be known as the Collision Investigation Squad.Under long-standing NYPD procedures, drivers who injured pedestrians and cyclists, and who were sober and remained at the scene, were not investigated unless the victim died or was believed likely to die. This policy undermined or destroyed investigations into an untold number of crashes, including those that took the lives ofStefanos Tsigrimanis and Clara Heyworth. The new standards described by Kelly represent a significant step forward for the department's crash response protocol, and should result in more investigations. However, they will apparently fall short of what is required by state law.
Language is important. When officialdom employs the word "accident" to describe a crash, it sets the wrong tone and frames the discussion against accountability. That part might seem like a small change, but it is more important than it appears.