Crash. Not Accident.
Word choice matters. The words “Crash” and “Accident” are often used to describe the same event, but in reality each word conjures up very different images. An “accident” just happens. Accidents can’t be reasonably predicted or avoided. A “crash,” on the other hand, is the result of choices made and risks disregarded. Crashes don’t just happen; somebody is at fault in a crash.
A majority of fatal road crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless motorists. They are NOT just unfortunate events. The victims were NOT simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Deadly crashes in the St. Louis region this year are too numerous to list here. They include the January crash precipitated by Hazelwood motorist William Goad, who was driving more than twice the speed limit on Gallatin Lane in Bridgeton when he struck and killed Bridgeton resident Duane Johnson, who was riding his bicycle. That was no accident. More recently, in September, the 18th pedestrian fatality in the City of St. Louis this year occurred when a hit and run driver sped through St. Louis’ Fairground Park on a Sunday afternoon and killed Nathaniel Thomas, 29, as he crossed the street. That was no accident.
Trailnet, and many other transportation advocates, want to change how we talk about traffic collisions in this country. When one motorized vehicle careens into another, or turns into an oncoming cyclist, or rounds a corner right into a pedestrian — call it a “crash,” not an “accident.” Words matter, and the way car crashes are framed has a powerful effect on how they are perceived. If thousands of preventable traffic injuries and deaths per year are described as accidental, why bother with thorough investigations to uncover root causes and determine potential solutions?
Accident or Crash? Our choice of words can educate the public, set accurate expectations, contribute to improved road safety, and ultimately help save lives. Changing our language is one of the first steps to realizing Vision Zero in St. Louis.