Is It a Car Accident or a Car Crash?
There is something of a battle going on when it comes to car accidents, and that battle has to do with the word accident. Many people who are involved with preventing dangerous car accidents believe the word accident trivializes the nature of these dangerous collisions and makes the event itself seem like something that could not be avoided – and not something for which the negligent driver is responsible. The word crash, on the other hand, better depicts the nature of the vast majority of car accidents on our roadways. In the end, the words we choose regarding car wrecks can have a significant effect on how we think about the precipitating events and, thus, should be given careful consideration.
As a society, we are used to using the term car accident for car crashes of nearly every variety. It is basically second nature for most of us. However, Dr. Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) – at a driver safety conference headed by the Harvard School of Public Health – relays that invoking the word accident ultimately makes the event sound like it was an act of God.
We have all heard the aphorism that accidents happen, which clearly implies that no one is at fault. The fact is that most car accidents are the result of human error. Some proponents of changing the word accident to crash believe that it could actually help us make our roadways safer by shifting our collective attitude in the direction of preventing human error rather than simply facing a problem that the word accident lulls us into believing it is out of our hands.
Using the term car crash places responsibility squarely back on the negligent driver who caused the wreck in the first place. While accident downplays responsibility, crash highlights personal responsibility. The fact is that, while accident can refer to a collision that was caused by human error, it can also refer to a true accident that is caused by something that is beyond the driver’s control – like a tire blowout or a flash flood on the roadway. Proponents of changing accident to crash believe that crash is associated with a much clearer vision of the violent nature of collisions that are caused by driver negligence.
In Favor of the Change
Many advocates of safer driving, grassroots organizations, and even federal and state officials have voiced their support for changing the fallback word from accident to crash. In fact, many states’ Departments of Transportations have already dropped the word accident as it relates to incidents involving vehicles.