Your Car Crash Probably Wasn’t an Accident

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No one plans to get into a car crash. But the decisions we make behind the wheel can put ourselves and others at risk. When the odds catch up with us, it’s hardly an accident, even though we call it that.

Every year, nearly 1.3 million people die in car crashes worldwide. Closer to home, over 900 people died in auto collisions in 2014 alone. New York-based nonprofits, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are convinced that some of these fatalities could be prevented, just by changing the way we talk about “auto accidents.”

They have created the hashtag #CrashNotAccident encouraging the media and everyday drivers to take responsibility for the way they talk about motor vehicle collisions. The Huffington Post reports:

“An ‘accident’ seems equivalent to spilling milk, or an act of God,” says Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives. “That’s not what a car crash is. There’s always a human choice behind any crash.”

Any time a driver’s negligence is involved – whether due to distracted driving, speeding, or drunk driving – it can’t really be called an accident. The driver in these cases clearly made a choice that put other passengers at risk.

And yet, almost every article you read about a collision will report on what happened as a “car accident.” That affects the way we think about the crash. Amy Cohen of Families for Safe Streets told Huffington Post:

“When you see the word ‘accident’ in an article, . . . it reflects a decision by the reporter to presume innocence from the get-go. And that’s usually not the case.”

Reporters will default to the word “accident” even when a driver’s poor choices are clearly responsible for a crash. And that can cause readers to assume those collisions couldn’t have been avoided.

The goal of the “crash, not accident” campaign is to draw attention to the word choices we make and how it affects public opinion. According to the website:

  • Before the labor movement, factory owners would say “it was an accident” when American workers were injured in unsafe conditions.
  • Before the movement to combat drunk driving, intoxicated drivers would say “it was an accident” when they crashed their cars.
  • Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions.
  • Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let’s stop using the word “accident” today.

When we use the words “car accident” we are unintentionally letting drivers off the hook. By placing responsibility to make safe driving decisions where it belongs – with the driver – we may be able to reduce the number of car crashes and save innocent lives.

David Christensen is a car crash attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents those injured in collisions against insurance companies to get their expenses covered. If you have been seriously injured in a crash, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.