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Safety experts push for an end to car "accidents"

It is often said that words have meaning. Using certain words instead of others can make a big difference in how something is perceived or interpreted by Minnesota residents, as some words carry more weight than others.

Recently, traffic safety officials around the United States took note of this concept in the context of car accidents. They noted that, in most cases, a car accident is not an accident at all, in the sense of how that word is ordinarily used. Instead, these incidents are the result of human behavior. Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 94 percent of crashes were caused by human behavior.

Because human responsibility is involved, safety officials prefer to use the term "crash" instead of "accident." The NHTSA itself has not used the term "accident" for almost a decade, and the agency has been joined by several state departments of transportation around the country. The purpose behind the change in terminology is to get individuals to realize that their actions behind the wheel have consequences.

While terminology changes may be a relatively recent phenomenon among traffic safety experts, the legal system has long recognized that human responsibility lies at the heart of car crashes. Individuals who have been injured in a crash can impose legal liability on the negligent driver who caused the crash.

Accordingly, even if the incident is commonly referred to as an accident, negligence can be imposed in a personal injury action. Negligence itself means there is not intentional conduct, but that the person failed to follow the standard of care he or she was bound to follow. When negligence is found, the negligent driver can be ordered to pay compensation for causing the crash.

Source: Northland News Center, "Traffic safety officials: It's a 'crash' - not an 'accident'," May 31, 2016

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