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When An Accident Is Not An Accident

For many, the word "accident" implies a random or chance occurrence. Accidents, to many people, are the result of bad luck or fate. That connotation has led the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recommend a change in the way we talk about traffic collisions. In making that recommendation, he joins a group of safety experts who believe the term "accident" is hurting efforts to improve auto safety by obscuring the fact that bad decisions by irresponsible drivers cause most crashes.

Data collected by the NHTSA shows that around 94 percent of crashes are caused by driver behaviors like distracted driving, speeding and drunk driving. Only 6 percent can be attributed to defective vehicles, weather or other conditions outside the control of the driver. The rise of distracted driving, in particular, is troubling to many experts and is a likely contributor to the increase in traffic fatalities from 2014 to 2015. 

Constantly referring to a crash as an "accident" is one technique used by insurance companies to downplay the responsibility of their clients for causing an injury or wrongful death. While the change from "accident" to "crash" may be semantics to some, it does underscore the fact that someone is almost always at-fault when vehicles collide. Fate doesn't cause a person to ignore safe driving in order to send a text message. An intentional, negligent act is the cause of the crash that follows.

Many cities and states have changed or are considering changes to legislation referring to motor vehicle collisions. The goal in many cases is to draw attention to something that many people take for granted. When a new threat arises that could kill dozens of people, it draws headlines. Meanwhile, around 38,000 people died last year in car crashes. What should be viewed as an epidemic of unparalleled proportions is instead viewed as a mere side effect of driving. After all, accidents happen.

Source: The New York Times, "It's No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car 'Crashes' Instead," by Matt Richtel, 22 May 2016 

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