Planes crashing into mountains aren’t “accidents.” When heavy machinery falls on a factory workers’s foot, it isn’t an “accident.” So why is one car colliding into another any different?
That’s the argument made by the New York City nonprofit groups Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives in a new safety campaign.
The campaign, called Crash Not Accident, urges people to reconsider the language they use when referring to roadway collisions.
“Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers,” the site says. Referring to traumatic events as “accidents” only serves to absolve the guilty parties of their blame.
The campaign is currently collecting signatures from people who agree to stop using the word “accident.”
As of this writing, the groups have received 774 pledges out of their goal of 20,000.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Howard Forman has his doubts on the potential effectiveness of the campaign.
While our natural tendency might be to seek vengeance, or at least find peace of mind in linking the tragic effect to a specific cause, Forman argues that this kneejerk response is counterproductive.
“Having room for the word ‘accident’ in our vocabulary can help us heal,” Forman says, though he concedes the word isn’t always appropriate.
In cases where a person’s brakes failed or a driver is intoxicated, the end result could certainly be prevented through better judgment. That’s why activist groups find it more practical (and accurate) if people use a word that describes the effect — “crash” — rather than one that describes whether someone meant to do it.
If we don’t hold people accountable with our language, the campaign argues, people won’t feel compelled to drive more safely in the future.
But according to Forman, omitting the word “accident” altogether ignores the fact that randomness is all around us. Bad things can happen even when no one is at fault.
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