In a recent article from the New York Times, the usage of the phrase “car accident” was debated. A large number of safety advocates are trying to change a “100-year-old mentality that trivializes the single most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.” These safety advocates want the term “accident” to be changed to “crash” in everyday semantics, specifically in police and insurance reports.
Many different cities and states are enacting laws or policies that move away from using the term “accident” when referring to roadway incidents. Even the Associated Press Style Guide changed their policy in April to say, “When negligence is claimed or proven in a car crash, reporters should “avoid accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible.”
Others argue that the term “accident” is perfectly acceptable, saying that “human error” can be an accident even if is preventable or that drivers are familiar with the word so there is no use in changing it to “crash” only. However, Jeff Larason, the director of highway safety for Massachusetts and a campaign leader to get the media to stop using the term “accident”, says that people are using the common word inappropriately. He pointed out that the Merriam-Webster definition of “accident” is, “an unexpected happening that is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured.”
In the 1920s, there was an increase in the number of traffic deaths as there were more vehicles on the road. The auto-industry and insurers started to use the word “accident” so blame wouldn’t be put on the cars, but put on reckless drivers. But, as time has gone on, “accident” has shifted blame away from the driver as well. Dr. Peter Norton, an associate professor at the University Of Virginia’s department of engineering says that the word “accident” has “normalized mass death in this country, and the word crash, is a resurrection of the enormity of this catastrophe.”
Most proponents of stopping the use of the word “accident” are advocating on social media sites, specifically to journalists and state governments. Amy Cohen started a campaign called “Crash Not Accident” after her son Sammy was run over and killed in Brooklyn in 2013. She says, “The presumption should be to call it a car crash, which is a neutral term.”
What do you think about the term “accident” in regards to a traffic incident? Should it be changed in the public’s mind and on government, police and insurance reports to the word “crash”? Do you think this is an issue even worth arguing over? Let us know by leaving a comment over on our Facebook or Twitter page using the hashtag #crashoraccident.
Source: The New York Times