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Should we call them car accidents?

Motor vehicles striking other motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians are not uncommon, in Connecticut or anywhere in the United States. In 2010, there were 13.6 million crashes or 25.8 crashes every minute of the year.

That year, there were almost 33,000 deaths that were attributed to motor vehicle crashes, collisions and wrecks, and almost 24 million vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The total cost to society in that year was estimated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) at $871 billion. 

And human error has been found to be a cause or the cause of 90 to 99 percent of vehicle crashes.

Yet we call them car accidents.

In common parlance, by speaking of them as "accidents," most people probably mean that they were not intentional acts, where a driver intended to crash into another vehicle or person walking along the road.

That is probably true, but in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, there are some elements of negligence. From the obvious negligence of driving drunk or texting, to the more subtle negligence of driving too fast for conditions or when you are too fatigued to keep your eyes open.

The danger of using "accident" is that it carries with it an implicit absolution of responsibility. The crash occurred on a slippery road…it was an accident. Or was it. Had they been driving a few miles per hour slower, that "accident" may not have occurred at all.

We cannot control the actions of other drivers, but we all can take steps to drive a little safer. And avoid those "accidents."

Streetsblog.org, "DAs Insist They Don’t Call Car Crashes "Accidents," Except When They Do," Stephen Miller, January 14, 2015

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