99% of the crashes on Texas roadways causing injuries and deaths weren’t intentional or on purpose. Most of the time, the driver who caused the wreck never meant to hurt anybody. Poor choices are made. Drivers run red lights and blow through stop signs. Even in an age of unprecedented education, prevention, law enforcement, and advocacy, drunk drivers still choose to get behind the wheel.
But make no mistake, most of the time when vehicles collide, it was no “accident” at all. An accident is something that happens without the input of a person. A mishap is when someone violates a rule and causes harm to someone else.
Yes, every once in a while a crazed motorist will run into someone on purpose. Clearly, not an accident. On the other hand, the connotation that an accident was nobody’s fault is often not only wrong, but can be hurtful and insulting to the victim.
As one victim puts it: “In a million little ways, that excuse — it was an accident — has shattered my ability to recover. I have been through a great deal of pain — but ‘accident’ cuts like a knife. What happened to me was preventable. Traffic crashes are preventable.”
We all know the mother’s adage: “It’s okay honey, it was just an accident.” But are most car collisions really an accident, or are the majority of the over 30,000 deaths per year in the United States preventable? Activist groups believe the term “accident” should be analyzed and replaced in order to assign responsibility rather than shift the blame.
According to Vox, “Using the word ‘accident’ to describe car crashes might seem natural. But early coverage of crashes in the 1910s and 1920s depicted the vehicles as dangerous killing machines — and their violent collisions were seldom called accidents.
Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions. Calling a crash an accident prevents the accountability that can prevent future crashes.
The site Crash Not Accident has been launched by New York City nonprofits Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets with a pledge for people to sign onto the cause. Using the hashtag #crashnotaccident, advocates are sharing the campaign, often including links to headlines which erroneously use “accident” and urging publications to stop using the word.
Texas, as well as several other states, have officially changed the way that law enforcement refer to so-called accidents. Here in Texas, officers complete a “Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report” not an “Accident Report”. While this change in nomenclature is a good start, the phrase car accident is still widely used. By understanding the differences between a crash and an accident, and educating others about why we should stop saying the “a” word, we can continue the movement toward correct terminology.