It’s a Crash Not an Accident, a Push for Semantics Change to Deter Reckless Drivers

Auto Accident
Car Wreck
Car Crash

By Zac Pingle, Staff Writer

37,000 deaths occur every year from car crashes and 90 percent of these deaths are due to human error. The number of traffic related deaths is more than a coincidence, which is why they are not accidents.

The fundamental difference between a “crash” and an “accident” is a matter of fault. The word “accident”, by definition, means a sudden event that happens by chance and was not intended or planned. Transportation activists are pushing to have the term “accident” replaced with the word “crash” in hopes that drivers will recognize the full impact of reckless behavior while driving. The strategy of changing “accident” to “crash” is to shake people and prevent a presumption that the events that lead to a car collision happened by chance and could not have been avoided. It is hoped that the change in semantics will lead to a changes in policy and behavior that will ultimately reduce traffic injuries and death.


Nevada enacted a law on January 1st that changed “accident” to “crash” in many state laws and legal documents. The law made it so that any party involved in a crash would not be able to lean on the presumption that no one was at fault for a collision and the resulting injuries. Advocates argue that if drivers are more aware that their actions can cause injury and death, they will be more likely to avoid reckless driving behaviors like drinking while driving, and driving while distracted. The movement will be getting rid of a 100 year old mentality that “accidents happen.”


In the early 1900’s the term “accident” was adopted by large companies to avoid acknowledging fault for industrial injuries sustained by their employees. As time progressed, “accident” became commonly used by negligent drivers to avoid fault by claiming that a collision “was an accident.”

“In our society, language can mean everything” says Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “When you use the word ‘accident’ it’s like ‘God made it happen.’” The problem is that in the case of a lethal car collision the only voice heard from the actual event is from the surviving party who may have caused the incident. Amy Cohen, a co-founder of the Families for Safe Streets group, says “Whose story do you have at the time of a crash? The driver! The victim is dead.” Ms. Cohen has been personally affected by the actions of a reckless driver when her 12 year old son was run over and killed in 2013. “Our children did not die in ‘accidents’,” says Cohen “An ‘accident’ implies that nothing could have been done to prevent their deaths.”

The simple act of using the word “crash” instead of “accident” can level the playing field, so to speak, and result in no predisposition for fault of one party or another. If you have been injured or have had a loved one die as a result of a reckless driver, consult a personal injury lawyer to recover the damages that you’ve sustained.

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