Language shapes many of our perceptions, and our perceptions influence how we react to an event. That’s why even representatives from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say that you should stop calling vehicular crashes “accidents.” Numerous state departments of transportation have already adopted terminology that avoids the use of that word in relation to crashes.
Here are several of the top reasons why it’s important to shift the narrative:
People and their choices are at the root of most crashes
As one NHTSA official stated, “When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like, ‘God made it happen.’” That shifts the responsibility for considerate, safety-conscious behavior away from the person responsible for the crash and makes it sound like they couldn’t really help what happened. The reality is that the vast majority of crashes can be prevented by not driving while impaired, maintaining the proper speed, paying attention to traffic signals and staying focused on the road instead of other distractions.
It affects public policy in unexpected ways
When motor vehicles were first developed, negligent drivers were largely held criminally and civilly liable for any crash — until automakers and industry groups changed the dialogue. Their maneuvers helped make it sound like many pedestrians killed by motor vehicles were responsible for their own deaths by being in the road where the vehicle is king. Instead of drivers being tasked with the job of avoiding pedestrians, pedestrians were tasked with staying out of the way.
Ultimately that has influenced road and vehicle designs in ways that are primarily concerned with speed and ease of use — not safety. That’s led to an unfortunate lack of planning that’s designed to accommodate pedestrians.
In any motor vehicle crash, accountability is important. Drivers are responsible for all the choices they make. If you were injured due to a negligent driver, find out more about your right to compensation for your losses.