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Why You Should Say "Crash" Not Car "Accident"

How powerful is one word? Traffic safety activists are among those who believe words influence people in tremendous ways. Because of this belief, several advocacy groups are fighting to have the word "crash" replace "accident" when referring to automobile collisions.

Many people believe that saying "accident" makes it wrongly appear as though crashes are inevitable rather than preventable. In truth, the majority of auto fatalities and injuries could be prevented if it were not for drunk driving, distracted driving, poor road conditions, speeding or negligence by one of the drivers.

Families for Safe Streets, an organization comprised of victims of traffic violence and families of loved ones who were killed or severely injured by aggressive or reckless drivers on New York City streets, is one of the groups pledged to changing the vocabulary surrounding auto collisions. However, they are not only fighting to have the word "crash" replace "accident" in New York, but all over the United States.

The hope of Families for Safe Streets and similar organizations is that everyday people, public officials and journalists will alter their vocabulary to give credit to role negligence plays in most car crashes.

Do they have a point? Can one small word influence people in a way that causes them to forget the real issue behind car crashes and instead write it off as an "accident"?

We all know the mother's adage: "It's okay honey, it was just an accident." But are most car accidents really an accident, or are the majority of the over 30,000 deaths per year in the United States preventable? Activist groups believe the term "accident" should be analyzed and replaced in order to assign responsibility rather than shift the blame.

Why do we use the term "car accident"?

When a plane crash occurs, we don't call it a "plane accident." So why then do we use the term "accident" to describe a car crash? The answer, it seems, is more premeditated than you might guess...

According to Vox, "Using the word 'accident' to describe car crashes might seem natural. But early coverage of crashes in the 1910s and 1920s depicted the vehicles as dangerous killing machines — and their violent collisions were seldom called accidents.

Prior to formal traffic laws, judges most always ruled that the vehicle (and thus the driver) was to blame for any collision. If a pedestrian was hit, it was always the fault of the car. This legal pressure led various industry groups and automakers to lobby for law changes which forced pedestrians off the streets and onto designated crosswalks.

The auto industry's next move was to regulate how the public heard about vehicle collisions. To accomplish this, the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce created an open wire service for newspapers wherein reporters could get an entire article printed if they sent in basics regarding a car collision. These articles would largely shift the blame for the crash onto pedestrians rather than the car. It was here where the term "accident" first began to be widely used.

The phrase "car accident" took off for years, but in the 1960's the first director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, William Haddon, made anyone who used the word "accident" in one of their meetings to put a dime in the jar. Haddon must have been a firm believer of power in words.

In 1994, the same administration asked that people stop using the word "accident," and in 2013 the police departments of New York City and San Francisco quit using the term altogether in their collision reports.

Avoiding the "A" Word

Despite the efforts of Haddon and many advocacy groups, the phrase "car accident" continues to be widely used today and why certain organizations are trying to spread awareness. One group has even launched the Crash Not Accident campaign asking people to pledge that they will stop using the word "accident" and replace it with "crash." Supporters have been using the hashtag #crashnotaccident to remind reporters and the public of the importance of the word change.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto collision that you know was no "accident", Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Gilreath & Associates are here to support you every step of the way. The major role that negligence plays in most car crashes is a point that our lawyers have been aggressively fighting for and defending for years.

If you were involved in a serious collision caused by a negligent driver, you aren't just a participant – you're a victim. Having an experienced attorney can help you obtain the compensation that you deserve. Discuss your case with us today.

For more information regarding auto collision and personal injury legal representation, continue to browse our blog and Tennessee Personal Injury Guide.

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