Is 'Accident' the right word to use in a car crash?

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The more data we have, and the closer we look at it, the more firmly I think that car ‘accident’ isn’t the right word to use in a crash or collision. Drunk driving is no accident, speeding and losing control isn’t an accident, allowing yourself to get distracted from the task of driving isn’t an accident. They are all choices.

Drivers, and the public in general like to think that something caused a collision, or that someone or something else is to blame for the crash, when in truth we ourselves accept the situation we are in. We make choices every day to drive safely, we need to make them all the time.  Driver error is the biggest cause of crashes, mechanical failure is way, way down the list, and medical crisis is even rarer. If we slide off the road in icy conditions we must accept that we didn’t adjust the way we were driving. This includes making the choice to not venture out on the roads. The same is true for impaired driving. There is no accident there.  It is much easier emotionally for us to believe that an event was unavoidable (I hit black ice) rather than to accept that we were driving too fast for the conditions – it is self-preservation to avoid guilt or responsibility for what could be a tragic situation.

The press is as much to blame as anyone in the use of the phrase ‘accident’ as it avoids any legal challenge they may have in laying blame in a situation. We need to be a bit more mature and accept that we make choices each day that can avoid car crashes, injury and fatality. We just need to get more consistent about them.