Continuum approaches to fracture regard crack initiation and growth as the ultimate consequences of a gradual, local loss of material integrity. The material models which are traditionally used to describe the degradation process, however, may predict premature crack initiation and instantaneous, perfectly brittle crack growth. This nonphysical response is caused by localisation instabilities due to loss of ellipticity of the governing equations and - more importantly - singularity of the damage rate at the crack tip. It is argued that this singularity results in instantaneous failure in a vanishing volume, even if ellipticity is not first lost. Adding strong nonlocality to the modelling is shown to preclude localisation instabilities and remove damage rate singularities. As a result, premature crack initiation is avoided and crack growth rates ! remain finite. Weak nonlocality, as provided by explicit gradient models, does not suffice for this purpose. In implementing the enhanced modelling, the crack must be excluded from the equilibrium problem and the nonlocal interactions in order to avoid unrealistic damage growth.