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Why We Should Stop Referring to Car Crashes as "Accidents"

Traffic deaths have dramatically increased over the past 50 years as a result of human error. As a society, we have gotten comfortable with referring to car crashes as “accidents,” but now, grass-roots groups and safety advocates are campaigning to change this mindset. Calling collisions “accidents,” they say, ultimately trivializes the human acts behind these tragic incidents.

According to Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “language can be everything” in our society. “When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like ‘God made it happen.’” According to Merriam-Webster, an accident is defined as “an unexpected happening” that is “not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured.”

By acknowledging this semantic change, we can be more aware of our responsibility behind the wheel. Speeding, drinking, and behind-the-wheel distractions are some of the most common reasons behind many fatal accidents – in fact, deadly car crashes were responsible for killing 38,000 people in 2015. By refusing to call these incidents “accidents,” society as a whole – including policymakers – can shake themselves from the “nobody’s fault” attitude that the word suggests. Calling a crash an “accident” implies that no one need be held accountable for their actions, when the reality is that negligence costing a person’s life should not go unacknowledged.

Nevada has already enacted a law that changed the word “accident” to “crash” in a number of instances where the word is mentioned in state laws, such as in insurance and police reports. San Francisco and New York are also taking similar steps. At least 28 state departments have also moved away from using the term “accident” when referring to traffic collisions. This is to avoid having a reader misconstrue the cause of the collision and mentally exonerate the driver of all responsibility, thereby normalizing mass death in this country.

According to Amy Cohen, the founder of the campaign “Crash Not Accident,” drivers who walk away from deadly wrecks should not be presumed innocent just because they lived to tell their side of the story.

Source: It’s No Accident: Advocated Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead (New York Times).

If you have been hurt in a car wreck, you may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault driver. Get in touch with a Washington, DC attorney at Simeone & Miller, LLP for a free personal injury consultation: (202) 888-0872.