What’s in a word? When it comes to car “accidents,” plenty. This post isn’t exactly timely but it is interesting and still relevant. The Washington Post had an interesting blog post, When a car ‘crash’ isn’t an ‘accident’ — and why the difference matters.
The Post looked at the campaign by the New York based Families for Safe Streets who are campaigning to stop using the word accident and replace it with thee word crash in automobile involved incidents.
Their reasoning is that word accident implies unintentional. An accident is when you drop a diner plate and it breaks. It connotes the idea that no one is at fault. The word “accident,” according to the group infers that no one bears responsibility.
One their site they explain it this way
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.
Amy Cohen is the co-founder of the group. Her 12-year old was killed by a van in front of their home in 2013.
“Our children did not die in accidents. An accident implies that nothing could have been done to prevent their deaths.”
The Post notes that an article over at Slate, Activists Want to Replace “Car Accident” With “Car Crash.” Not So Fast.
Katy Waldman writes
Our justice system distinguishes between negligence and criminal intent for good reason. You could even assert that baked into the prevalence of accident is the fundamentally American idea of “innocent until proven guilty.” Ascribing bloodthirsty motives to a careless motorist feels as problematic as suggesting that she bears no responsibility for the pain she’s sown.
Caroline Samponaro, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives of which the Safe Streets coalition is a part says
“It doesn’t mean that there aren’t accidents,” Samponaro says. You can get in a crash slipping on black ice and still not be at fault. “What the word means is that we shouldn’t right away assume that there’s no one to blame.”