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Safety advocates: call it a "car crash," not a "car accident"


A growing number of highway safety advocates are urging that Americans stop using the term "accident" to refer to motor vehicle crashes. They argue that using the word "accident" creates the impression that a crash was an unexpected occurrence for which no one was at fault. Instead of "accident," these safety advocates propose using the word, "crash."

Behind this movement to change the way we talk about motor vehicle crashes is a sobering fact: deaths on America's roads and highways are increasing at a faster rate than at any time in the last 50 years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 737 people died in crashes on Louisiana roads in 2014. Thirty-one of these deaths were in Lafayette Parish.

The choice of words is important, according to safety advocates, because almost all car crashes are the result of human behaviors, like distracted or drunk driving. Calling these crashes "accidents," they argue, encourages the public to be apathetic about driving safety.

If changing the way we talk about car crashes focuses public awareness on unsafe driving, it is a good thing. Safety advocates may want to encourage public understanding of another word: negligence.

Negligence is a legal term that means the failure to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. If a negligent driver injures or kills another person, they can be held legally responsible to pay compensation to the victim or their family.

A person's conduct does not have to rise to the level of carelessness or recklessness to be considered negligent. Rather, it is enough to fail to exercise the level of care a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation. If more drivers understood the legal consequences of negligence, perhaps the death toll on our highways would start to come down.

Source: New York Times, "It's No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car 'Crashes' Instead," Matt Richtel, May 22, 2016

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