“It was an accident” is a common lament following a car mishap. However growing ranks of public officials and safety advocates are campaigning to change that mindset. They say calling a car crash an accident obscures the most common cause of traffic collisions: human error.

The word accident has an interesting history. It became popular during the industrial revolution, when factory owners did not want to take responsibility for workplace incidents. Later, when traffic-related deaths soared in the 1920s, auto-industry interests forged a similar path – adapting the term to put the focus on the driver, not the car.

Experts today know that most crashes are simply not accidents – but caused by questionable behavior like drinking, distracted driving and other risky activity. Just six percent of crashes are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors. Read New York Times Article

As the rate of car crashes increase (The nonprofit National Safety Council says deadly crashes rose by nearly eight percent in 2015 compared to 2014), more officials want to do away with the prevailing “it’s nobody’s fault attitude.”

Nearly 30 state departments of transportation have shifted from the term “accident” – with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration altering its policy on the subject back in 1997.

New York City nonprofits Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets have also coined the catchphrase “crash not accident,” with a focus on forever changing the culture of responsibility around traffic incidents. Read About Car Crash Behavior

New York-based Amy Cohen helped launch the “crash not accident” campaign after her young son was run over and killed by a car in 2013.

When the Associated Press Stylebook recently called on reporters to avoid using the word accident in car crash stories, Cohen said  “news outlets have reflexively used the word ‘accident,’ essentially throwing up their hands and saying traffic deaths are inevitable, something no one is responsible for, like bad weather. With this Stylebook guideline, the AP is sending an important message that crashes are preventable, that we can fix dangerous streets, and we can deter careless, negligent and reckless driving.” Read More.

Read more about the “crash not accident” movement and learn how you can make a difference.

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