We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.
Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

Motor Vehicle ‘Accidents’ Language Purposefully Misleading to Diminish Public Outrage

According to organizations like Families for Safe Streets, referring to a car “accident” as such diminishes the actions that contributed to the event. There are growing grassroots campaigns lobbying federal, state, and local governments to amend and bring attention to the ways we discuss car crashes.

The campaign says that referring to a car crash as an accident diminishes the human error that is typically the primary cause. The calls for change started small, but the growing momentum is moving to modify the way we all discuss automobile crashes. Lawmakers, journalists, and everyday citizens are being called upon to change the vernacular and discussion of car crashes.

Activists are aware that this word change seems minimal in the larger drive to curb automobile crashes and accidental death, but words have power. Changing the language helps aid understanding of what causes and contributes too many collision-related deaths each year.

Human Error and Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), human error is the leading cause of traffic collisions in the United States. The connection between negligence and automobile fatalities due to crashes is undeniable. Furthermore, certain types of motor vehicle accidents are directly caused by negligent human action, which negates the use of the word accident.

Choices like drinking, speeding, and distracted driving are deliberate actions that rank as the top three causes of automobile crashes in America. More than 30,000 deaths per year are attributed to car collisions, and many are completely avoidable. To assign the label of “accident” to these events lessen the damages they inflict upon families and friends of those killed in car crashes.

A Brief History of Word Association

In the 1920s, when the automobile was in its nascent beginnings, the language of car collisions was extremely negative. Crashes and injurious incidents were seldom considered accidental when automobiles were at their most unsafe. The automotive industry worked tirelessly to control their image and the messaging of their product.

An accident is an event that happens unexpectedly and without cause. Accidents include unintentional actions that unfortunately lead to harm and damage to a person or object. The key to understanding what is and what is not accidental is the cause of the serious action that led to the unintentional event. They wanted motor vehicle accidents to be regarded in a less negative light, and they worked with newspapers across the country to develop a general language for discussing collisions. Together, newspapers and automobile associations developed the “car accident” phrasing still used today.

With the creation of NHTSA in the 1920s, it was decided that car incidents and how they were being discussed could be misleading to the public. In the 1990s and 2000s, many metro city police departments removed the “car accident” phrasing from their collision reports after urging from NHTSA. Campaigns like Crash Not Accident and advocacy groups like Families for Safe Streets will continue to bring attention to the disparity between accident and crash language.

Negligent Motor Vehicle Accidents

Words don’t prevent auto crashes or death from an automotive collision. It’s important to acknowledge the role that humans play in the majority of all car crashes, which make them the opposite of an accident. Changing our language and understanding human negligence and error can help curtail future incidents.

If you or a family was involved in a motor vehicle crash that you feel was negligent and not accidental, then The Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP in Long Island, New York. We would like to discuss how we may offer legal support and solutions to you and your loved ones after an unfortunate motor vehicle collision.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Trusted & Respected