Drop The "A" Word - Not all crashes are accidents

Friday, July 31, 2015

We don’t say “plane accident.” We shouldn’t say “car accident” either.

By Joseph Stromberg at

To most people, the terms "car crash" and "car accident" are largely interchangeable. But a growing number of traffic safety advocates have been pointing out that there's actually a big difference — and they want journalists, public officials, and everyday people to say crash, not accident.
The two groups behind the recent campaign — Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets — argue that the term "accident" makes it seem like crashes are inevitable, rather than preventable. In a subtle way, it normalizes the crash and discourages us from looking more deeply into their causes — whether alcohol, reckless driving, or bad street design.
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.To get people to follow these laws, they tried to shape news coverage of crashes. 
The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, an industry group, established a free wire service for newspapers: Reporters could send in the basic details of a traffic collision, and would get in return a complete article to print the next day. These articles, printed widely, shifted the blame for crashes to pedestrians — and almost always used the word "accident."


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