Is A Crash Really An Accident? Why is the difference so important?

Words are powerful, and one single word can change the way we think about an entire idea or situation.

This concept is especially true when describing an auto accident, or rather, a crash.

For example, take the phrase “She was in an accident.” This sentence leads you to believe that an unpreventable incident has occurred, making it the fault of no one person.

However, saying, “She was in a crash,” would lead you to wonder, what was the cause … or who was the cause?

Rates of roadway fatalities are soaring and all too often, drivers are not being held accountable for their actions, implying instead it was a matter of chance, although, human error is the most common cause of traffic mishaps.

How “accident” terminology came about

In the Early 1900’s, “accident” was introduced into the lexicon of manufacturing and other industries when companies were looking to protect themselves from the cost of caring for workers who were injured on the job, according to Peter Norton, a historian and associate professor at the University of Virginia.

“Relentless safety campaigns started calling these events accidents which excused the employer of responsibility,” Dr. Norton said.

You have a choice to make

According to a report published by the United States Department of Transportation, 94 percent of crashes can be associated to the driver; the remaining six percent is an even split between vehicle problems, environmental factors, and unknown reasons. Of driver-caused incidents, 41 percent were caused by “recognition errors,” or distracted driving and 33 percent by recklessness or other errors in judgment.

When you are the driver of a motor vehicle, you have a choice. Choosing to drive drunk or text on your cell phone while driving, it is not an accident, because it was a choice you made.

Stop saying the “A” word

When referring to an automobile collision, many advocacy groups such as Mother’s Against Drunk Driving are encouraging others to replace the word “accident” with “crash” or “collision.”

Jeff Larason, the for Massachusetts, has also been trying to get rid of the accident reference when it comes to traffic collisions.

“The word wrongly implies that human decisions and actions have nothing to do with it,” Larason says.

We don’t refer to plane crashes as plane accidents. When there is a plane crash, as a society we expect answers and solutions. We can identify the cause of crashes, and take action to alter the effect and avoid future incidents.

Yes, accidents do happen but …

By definition, an accident is unintentional, like when we drop a plate of food. Unsafe drivers typically cause traffic crashes. They are not accidents. An accident suggests nothing could have been done to prevent it, or an event that couldn’t possibly be anticipated, we shouldn’t automatically assume that there is no one to blame.

Motor vehicle crashes occur “when a link or several links in the chain” are broken. Continued use of the word “accident” suggests that these events cannot be controlled by the individual. The outcome is predictable as a result of specific actions.

Because we can identify the causes of crashes, we can take action to alter the effect and avoid collisions.

There are three types of collisions:

Preventable crashes

  • Speeding
  • Deliberately driving distracted like using your phone or putting make-up on
  • Tailgating
  • Driving a mechanically defective vehicle with bad tires or ineffective breaks
  • Driving drunk or under the influence
  • Driving unlicensed with no experience

Preventable accidents

  • Driving inadvertently distracted
  • Misjudging a maneuver like reversing into a pole
  • You were mindful the road rules but didn’t react quickly enough

Non-preventable accidents

  • Tire blowout
  • Another driver hits you, and you had nowhere to go
  • Child runs out in front of you not leaving enough time to respond
  • Sudden mechanical failure like brake failure
  • Rockslide takes you off the road as you are driving
  • Unforeseen medical event occurs like a heart attack

In reality, the majority of injuries and fatalities that occurred on US roads could have been prevented if it were not for speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, or negligence by one of the drivers.

How The Carlson Law Firm can help

If you or a loved one was injured due to the negligence of another driver which was no “accident,” call one of our experienced attorneys for the compensation you deserve. The Carlson Law Firm is ready to fight for you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We care, we can help.


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