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Nicoletti Walker Law Group June 17, 2016

The New York Times published an article on May 22nd highlighting the recent movement by advocates to draw attention to the human error aspects of car crashes, particularly in recent years; noting just how “accidental” these crashes may not be. They point out that almost all crashes at this point stem from human behaviors such as distraction, drinking, and other risky activities. Very rarely do vehicle malfunctions, weather, and other factors that people cannot control actually cause accidents. These advocates are, in part, recommending a change in semantics in order to change society’s mindset surrounding these incidents in an effort to promote greater responsibility and caution on the road.

Some States Responding

According to some experts, driving is now the most dangerous activity for most, mainly because too many people are apathetic about the potential dangers associated with the activity. In fact, it has become such an issue that some states are taking it upon themselves to change the dialogue.

For example, on January 1st, Nevada enacted a law changing “accident” to “crash” where the word appears in state laws regarding insurance and police reports. And New York and San Francisco had already adopted policies years ago requiring that the cities no longer regard traffic crashes as “accidents.” Now, close to 30 other state departments have moved away from the term “accident” as well.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t objections; in fact, some are responding that the word “accident” has been used for so long that drivers are very comfortable with it, and the sudden change could cause detrimental confusion.

Normalizing Mass Death?

If you look at the definition of “accident,” the term itself implies an incident lacking any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured and/or a lack of responsibility. And if you look at the history of the word “accident,” it was, in fact, introduced in the 1920s by auto-industry interests in order to shift the blame away from themselves and, instead, place it on others when auto malfunctions gave rise to injuries.

At this point, those who criticize the use of the word point out that it has come to exonerate the driver—as though there was a lightning strike or some other outrageous uncontrollable event that caused injury—and in doing so, it is “normalizing mass death in this country.”

The Case in Florida

It appears that Florida has already embraced the change: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles refers to automobile “crashes” (not “accidents”), and claims that the sole purpose of the Bureau of Motorist Compliance is to ensure that people are responsible for their actions involving motor vehicles. The Bureau refers to “crash reports,” instead of “accident reports,” and has incorporated other changes into its ‘language of motor vehicle accidents.’

Experienced Clearwater Car Crash Attorneys

Attorney Mike Walker has many years of experience litigating and negotiating successful personal injury settlements and verdicts for victims of Clearwater car crashes, including those caused by drunk and distracted drivers. Call today for a free consultation with a skilled attorney who is prepared to assist you.