"Crash" vs. "Accident"... this is a debate and fight that has existed for years across the United States. An event this week AGAIN reminded me of the importance of eliminating the term "accident" from our societal vocabulary.
I will start with the "crash" vs. "accident" debate. Look at the news every day. It is filled with headlines such as:
(Yes, these are actual headlines.)
- Woman Dies From Injuries After Car Jumps Curb
- Out of Control Car Crashes Man Against Wall
- Car Mowes Down Little Girl After Barreling Onto Sidewalk
- Man Killed When Struck By Car
This has been the center of changing the terminology to "crash" from "accident." It is all a question of who is responsible and preventability.
First, let's address who's responsible. When we, as a society, use phrases or headlines like the ones above to describe traffic collisions, it is taking the accountability away from the human beings involved in the crash and transferring it to the motor vehicle. Why not say "the driver killed the man" instead of "man killed when struck by car?"
Let's look at it from another perspective. Very rarely (if ever) do we hear the phrase "airplane accident." We assume, in this case, that in order for an airplane to crash, there is often some kind of mechanical or human error involved. The root cause must be figured out and named to either avoid or eliminate it. Why not take the same approach to car crashes?
When mentioning human error, it also brings up the issue of preventability. The term "accident" often suggests that nothing could have been done to prevent it from happening. This is absolutely not true. According to the New York Times, almost all car crashes stem from driver behavior like drinking, distracted driving and other risky behavior. Only about 5% of crashes are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather or other like factors.
One story this week illustrates this issue of accountability and preventability all too well. An 18 year old is responsible for ending her sister's life.
This 18 year old, Obdulia Sanches was livestreaming on social media (Instagram live) when her car started to veer off the road. She overcorrected, sending the car across the lane in the opposite direction.
The car then crashed through a barbed wire fence, causing Sanchez's sister to fly out of the car. Amid the crash and the chaos, Sanchez kept livestreaming, even after the car came to a stop. She kept filming her sister's injuries and last moments alive, saying, "Everybody, if I go to jail for life, you already know why. I killed my sister."
Despite this glaring video confession and evidence, Sanchez has pled "Not Guilty" to one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
All I can say is, "What?!?"
Obdulia's parents have gone on record saying that "our daughter did not know what she was doing and she feels bad." Hmmm... okay, that MIGHT be true, but she also made the CHOICE to drive drunk. She made the CHOICE to video the crash and livestream while driving. And she made the CHOICE to endanger 3 lives, including her own. THIS is why we don't call it an "accident."
Changing the language and attitudes when referring to traffic collisions is necessary and an ongoing struggle. Make the responsible choice when out on the road.