The phrase “car accident” has been around as long as cars themselves. The term is used freely to describe any type of vehicle collision and is typically more popular than “car crash.” With “accident” bearing a dictionary deﬁnition of “an event that is not planned or intended,” can we really consider all collisions an accident?
When observing the use-frequency trend of “car accident” versus “car crash” from 1950-2000, the difference in occurrences is staggering.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we work with countless individuals regarding motor vehicle injuries or deaths. Because the consequences of a car accident can be devastating both physically and ﬁnancially, it’s obvious that nobody plans or intends to have a car crash. Why, then, do we continue to refer to these serious events as accidents?
Of course, the term “car accident” is not always inappropriate in certain circumstances. If someone were to back out of a parking space and bump into another parked car, it would be unreasonable to label it as a “car crash.” But we never use this term when it is appropriate. According to the dictionary, “crash” means “to hit something hard enough to cause serious damage or destruction.” Using this philosophy, the term “car crash” is more appropriate then “car accident” when discussing collisions, whether caused by texting, speeding, or driver inattention, that have caused personal injury or damages.
We are not the only ones observing this controversy. The Crash Not Accident campaign is working to ﬁx this misnomer by educating people why “crash” is a more appropriate word to describe collisions.
Their website reads: “Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions. Trafﬁc crashes are ﬁxable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents.”
Each year, nearly 1.3 million people die in car accidents. Although labeling these tragedies as “crashes” will not change the landscape overnight, the change will position these events in a new scope of accountability and prevention. This increased awareness of word choice will hopefully encourage past victims’ healing and future drivers’ safety.