When vehicles collide on the roadways, news sources and law enforcement officials often refer to the collision as an accident. However, it is important to note that many of these incidents are not true accidents. The nonprofit National Safety Council found an 8 percent increase in deadly crashes from 2014 to 2015, leaving 38,000 people dead. With so many tragedies occurring every year, it is important to do whatever it takes to making the roadways a safer place for travelers, even if that means changing semantics.
The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other advocates believe that the word "accident" implies that the incident was out of the hands of the drivers and that it was no one's fault. The reality is that the most common cause of crashes is human error.
There are many different types of human errors responsible for the roadway crashes that occur in New York City every day. Drunk drivers, distracted drivers and other negligent drivers are responsible for a vast majority of collisions in the United States. Only 6 percent of crashes are caused by vehicle malfunction, bad weather conditions and other things out of the driver's control.
In 2014, New York City adopted a new policy to reduce road fatalities. The policy states that New York City must not refer to crashes as mere accidents. A number of other states are also making similar changes. Many of these policy changes are in response to grass-roots efforts led by loved ones who lost someone in a crash. In the reporting world, the Associated Press has a new policy stating that reporters should avoid using the term "accident" in situations where negligence is claimed or proven.
While many people are in support of this change, some still support using the word "accident." They argue that many drivers are comfortable with the term and that even preventable human errors can be considered an accident. However, it seems that many people support the use of the word "crash" due to the fact that it is a neutral term and that it puts some responsibility on the drivers involved, unlike the word accident. As a result, the number of road fatalities may reduce, which would benefit society as a whole.
Source: The New York Times, "It's No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car 'Crashes' Instead," Matt Richtel, May 22, 2016