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Should we call it a car crash or car accident?


Should we call it a car crash or a car accident when describing a motor vehicle collision? Many safety advocates and lawmakers across the country are pushing for roadway collisions to be described as a "crash" as opposed to the old mentality of calling it an "accident." The goal of this movement is to emphasize that most motor vehicle crashes are caused by preventable human error, such as alcohol, texting, or distracted driving. The concern is that the term "accident" trivializes the cause of the crash as if no one is at fault, which in turn can deter corrective behavior.

This article from The New York Times describes the debate on this issue. The article makes an interesting point that the use of "accident" was introduced into the lexicon of manufacturing and other industries in the early 1900s when companies were looking to protect themselves from the costs of caring for workers who were injured on the job. When traffic deaths spiked in the 1920s, the auto industry borrowed the phrase "accident" to shift the focus away from the cars and the growing auto industry, and place the blame on the drivers. But over time, the word has come to exonerate drivers.

As lawyers representing injured victims, we have seen countless lives forever changed by inattentive and reckless driving. Most people forget that driving is usually the most dangerous activity that most of us do everyday. Unfortunately, as this article from the New York Times mentions, roadway fatalities are soaring at a rate not seen in 50 years. We all need to pay better attention to this problem in effort to make roadways safer. As such, Rourke & Blumenthal supports this movement, even if it is just semantics, because little things can make a big difference.

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