Crash or Accident – Does it Make a Difference Which Word You Use?
With the incredibly high rate of traffic fatalities lately, safety advocates and concerned people have been advocating for a change in what word we use to describe the collision of vehicles on the road. We have used the words, crash, collision, or wreck to describe what has come to be described as a traffic accident. However, there has been a movement to make the conscious change away from using the word “accident.”
Using the word “accident” implies that it just happened – as an act of God or happenstance. A New York Times article discussing the debate reports “Almost all crashes stem from driver behavior like drinking, distracted driving, and other risky activity. About 6 percent are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors.”
People around the country are using “crash” instead of “accident” more and more. The Times article reported that the state of Nevada passed a law unanimously, which changes the word “accident” to “crash” in appropriate places in state law. New York City and San Francisco now refer to “traffic crashes,” and at least 28 departments of transportation have moved away from using the word “accident” when referring to roadway incidents. Even the Associated Press’s 2016 Stylebook weighs in on the issue.
Jeff Larason, a former Boston traffic reporter who is now the director of highway safety in Massachusetts, and Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have been on a mission to get rid of the word “accident” when referring to traffic collisions. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Larson’s blog, Drop the A Word, “If a drunk or distracted driver plows into another vehicle, they argue, how accidental is that? The word wrongly implies that human decisions and actions have nothing to do with it.
Not everyone agrees with swapping out the word, “accident” for “crash”
One group has publicly spoken out against the swap (though there could be more). The Virginia Department of Transportation felt that drivers were familiar with the word “accident” and that the change in wording could be confusing.
The Virginia DoT may be the only one to speak publicly on the issue, but they are not the only group who hopes we keep using the word “accident.” Insurance companies would prefer that we use the word “accident,” too. When you are in a collision and are injured, it is the insurance company who pays – not the at-fault driver. Using a word like “accident” indicates that this was an act of God or an unavoidable incident, not the actions (or inaction) of a driver, which could translate into less money paid out by the company.
Arizona motor vehicle crash deaths increased in 2016
In 2016, 962 people were killed in car crashes, which is 65 more people than the year before. The number of collisions was 126,845. Some of the causes of those vehicle crashes and deaths include:
- Not using seat belts. Two hundred and fifty people who died in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts.
- Speeding. Speeding and driving too fast for conditions was the most common driver violation.
- Hitting another car from behind. Rear-end crashes were the most common type of collision.
- Impaired driving. Drunk or drugged driving accounted for about 44 of all crashes and about one third of fatal collisions with 406 deaths and 4.089 injuries in Arizona in 2016.
At Plattner Verderame, P.C., our clients often have questions about how they might take legal action when they have been injured because of someone else’s negligence. We work hard to help our clients feel informed and comfortable. To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, please contact our experienced Phoenix car accident lawyers by calling 602-266-2002 or filling out our contact form.
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Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
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