Deaths caused by car accidents are increasing rapidly. However, a large number of safety advocates are trying to change how we’ve thought about car “accidents” for more than 100 years by clarifying car accidents caused by human error are not accidents. These safety advocates believe that calling deaths that result from collisions, crashes, drunk driving, distracted driving, reckless driving or any other form of human error “accidents” trivializes the fact that people made fatal choices.
Estimates from the National Safety Council show that only 6 percent of all fatal car crashes are caused by weather, vehicle malfunctions or other outside factors. However, the other 94 percent is due to drivers engaging in risky behaviors. This means that at least 38,000 deaths were the result of car crashes caused by human error.
The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes the consistently large number of deaths attributed to deadly car crashes is partly caused by widespread apathy towards the problem. However, legislatures in Nevada, New York and a few other states have worked to move away from the term “accident” in regards to car crashes in order to combat that apathy.
There are also campaigns like “Drop The A Word,” which has been working to encourage media outlets to stop using the term “accident” incorrectly. So far, the organization has enlisted the Associated Press and grass roots media groups. Other campaigns have started locally, such as “Crash Not Accident,” which advocates that drivers in deadly crashes should not be presumed innocent and encourages people to take a pledge.
Whether society is simply apathetic towards the consequences of engaging in risky driving behavior or we have come to truly believe our own misuse of language, the idea of a what constitutes an “accident” should change in regards to car crashes. By definition, accidents are unintentional. However, when a driver gets behind the wheel of a car after so many drinks or texts a friend while going 70 miles per hour, these choices are intentional. By calling the injuries and deaths that occur as a result of these choices “accidents,” we are allowing the drivers to shirk blame.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that helps victims who were injured in transportation incidents in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.