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Car Crashes Are No Accident

By Aline Miranda on December 16, 2016

Motor vehicle collision injuries and fatalities are soaring at a rate not seen in 50 years. To help fight this deadly trend, some safety advocates think we should stop calling them accidents. A growing number of safety advocates are campaigning to change the way we talk about car crashes because they say calling them accidents trivializes the single most common cause: Risky behavior, like speeding or texting while driving.

“When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like, ‘God made it happen,’” Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at a recent driver safety conference at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Research by the nonprofit National Safety Council show deadly crashes rose by nearly 8 percent in 2015 over the previous year, killing about 38,000 people. Almost all car crashes happen because of risky behavior like speeding, texting while driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distracted driving and other risky behavior. Only a very small percentage of crashes are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors.

A growing number of safety advocates believe that the rise in deadly crashes can be explained in part by apathy. People know they shouldn’t engage in risky behavior such as speeding, or texting while driving, but they do it anyway because they’re in a rush, or some other excuse. Changing the way we talk about car crashes is meant to make people think about the consequences of their actions as opposed to the implicit “nobody’s-fault” attitude that the word accident conveys.