The important difference between a car crash and a car accident

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Deaths from car accidents are on the rise at rates we haven’t experienced in 50 years. In fact, the problem is so bad that safety advocates across the country are asking Americans to reconsider the idea that car “accidents” happen as the result of human error. Safety advocates are saying that most car-related fatalities are not accidents at all; they are car “crashes” and they’re happening because of drivers who act in a negligent, reckless or unlawful manner.

Car collision statistics support the assertion that these incidents are not accidents. Indeed, deadly collisions increased by almost 8 percent in 2015, and 38,000 people died of car crashes that year. Furthermore, statistics show that almost all crashes stem from driver behaviors like drinking, distracted driving and other risky activities. Conversely, only about 6 percent are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors. All this makes driving one of the riskiest activities in which Americans regularly engage.

New York City is seeking to recognize the pandemic of problems presented by car crashes by redefining how we look at them. Recently, the city announced plans to no longer refer to traffic collisions as “accidents;” instead, it would refer to them as “crashes.” Other cities, like San Francisco, have enacted similar policies to change public perception of these tragic incidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees with this shift in terminology. According to an NHTSA spokesman, applying the word “accident” to a car crash makes the incident sound like an Act of God — something that could not have been avoided. He reminds us that the language we use can make a big difference when it comes to public perception.

Americans need to reconsider the way they view car accidents and instead see them as incidents that were caused by an at-fault party. We also need to make a concerted effort to drive safely at all times. Importantly, though, we must hold at-fault parties responsible for the deaths and injuries they cause, both through criminal court prosecutions and through personal injury claims filed in civil court actions.

Source: New York Times, “It’s No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead,” Matt Ritchel, May 22, 2016

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