4 Reasons You Should Stop Calling Vehicle Crashes “Accidents”

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, road crashes are expected to be the seventh leading cause of death in the world unless something changes. More than 500 children die every day and two people die every minute from road crashes. And yet, many people still refer to those incidents as “accidents.”

A group of non-profit, governmental, and business leaders – including those in Together for Safer Roads (TSR)—are encouraging people to stop using the word “accident” when referring to a car crash, saying that it detracts from our own empowerment and responsibility to make the roads a safer place.

A recent New York Times article quoted Mark Rosekind, the head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who said, “When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like, ‘God made it happen,'” during a conference at Harvard School of Public Health. “In our society, language can be everything.”

Advocates say we should call the occurrences what they really are: crashes and collisions. The New York Times article states that 28 U.S. state departments of transportation have changed their terminology from “accidents” to “crashes.”

Crashes should not be called accidents because they are preventable. Here are four reasons why we should all stop calling road crashes “accidents.”

  1. Because the choices and behavior of people are often at the heart of a crash. Speeding, drunken driving, and distracted driving lead to crashes. Other risk factors include fatigue, stress, illicit drugs, and inexperienced driving. The way one drives is a choice made by people. When the result is a crash, calling it an accident negates responsibility.
  2. Because road and vehicle design may be at fault. Poorly designed and poorly maintained roads, or faulty vehicles, can lead to crashes. Again, to call these events accidents minimizes the root cause. It’s up to government, businesses, and citizens to work together to discuss, fund, research, and improve road and vehicle safety.
  3. Because laws and law enforcement can improve. Only 34 countries have enacted laws cracking down on the five top road crash risk factors (speeding, drunken driving, seat belts, child safety restraints, and motorcycle helmets, for example). Business, people, and government should rally around making laws stricter and roads safer.
  4. Because young drivers are not educated and trained well enough. People ages 15 to 29 account for half of road deaths and injuries. Research shows that newer drivers who participate in graduated drivers license programs are better protected—as are their passengers—than those who are not trained.

Stricter laws, well-maintained roads, improved education, and heightened awareness can save lives. It all starts with accountability. And that’s no accident.