Don’t use the ‘A’ word

I attended the community meeting hosted last evening by Jay Schenirer, Steve Hansen, and the school district, called as the result of the recent fatality and severe life-threatening injury on Freeport Blvd. I’ll write more soon about the meeting itself, but for today, a comment about use of the ‘A’ word, accident. Every public official that evening, with the exception of Jennifer Donlon Wyant, used the word accident. Some of them repeatedly, with Ryan Moore, the Interim City Traffic Engineer, being the worst offender. Many of these uses were made while standing in front of the Vision Zero slide that states “Vision Zero ~ a traffic safety philosophy that rejects the notion that traffic crashes are simply “accidents,” but are preventable incidents that can and must be systematically addressed.” Oh, the irony.

Not the time to go into a detailed explanation of the harm that using this word causes, but you can check out, or #CrashNotAccident on Twitter. Basically, the common understanding of the word in traffic violence conversations is to excuse motor vehicle drivers (and engineers) of responsibility for their actions, implying that nothing could have been done, when in fact many things could have been done.

So, a modest proposal. Every time a public official uses the ‘A’ word, they make a contribution of $20 to a local transportation advocacy organization. Eventually, people will cure themselves of using the word, but in the meanwhile it will be an important source of income for nonprofits working to overcome the bias inherent in use of the word, and the underlying windshield perspective that accepts traffic violence as inevitable.

crash not accident

CrashNotAccidentCourtesy of Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives and the Vision Zero movement in New York City, there is a new effort and pledge to stop using the incorrect word “accident” for crashes involving vehicles, at Crash Not Accident. Though this is an effort that has been going on locally and nationally for some while (see We Save Live’s Drop the “A” Word). In the Sacramento region, the two most egregious users of the incorrect term are @SacRegion511 and law enforcement officers.

I ask all of you to join this effort. Every time you hear the word accident used when people are talking about vehicle crashes, correct them. Every time you see something on the Internet that uses the wrong word, comment. Yes, those people who prefer to absolve motor vehicle drivers of fault and consequence will not be happy. They may unfriend or unfollow you, and they will reply with angry requests to consider the poor “victim,” the motor vehicle driver, who will be scarred for life. In my opinion, scarring for life is a tiny price to pay for taking someone else’s life with irresponsible use of a motor vehicle. Am I angry? You bet I’m angry!

Crash, crash, crash

NotAnAccidentI don’t know whether the term accident has a new-found popularity, or whether I’m just more sensitive to it the last week, but it seems like everywhere I look in the news media, there it is, the term accident. I’m talking here about use for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

The term accident implies that no one was at fault, it just happened, an act of nature. But nothing that occurs on the roadways is an accident. Someone caused it, or someone contributed to it.

#NotAnAccident (yes, I realize that this twitter tag gets used for other things, but I haven’t thought of a better one)

I have been using the term crash in place of accident for several years. However, several people have commented that crash may be more appropriate to a single user situation, as in, the car crashed into a tree, or the bicyclist crashed on slippery pavement. The word collision implies two or more users, as in, a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle or pedestrian. But I’m not yet entirely happy with those definitions either. Incident has also been suggested, but that seems to clinical to me, almost a valueless opposite of accident.

Here are some links:

Slaughter on the roadways

In the last there days, Monday through Wednesday, at least four people died when struck by car drivers, and two others were injured. I know that the Sacramento Bee does not report all pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries, so there may have been more in the region, but this is an incredible level of slaughter.

The SacBee articles so far are:

The better of these articles describe the outcome and location in a factual manner. The poorer ones place the blame on the victim. This victim blaming is aided and abetted by the law enforcement officers who make the assumption that either a) it was a “tragic accident” that could not have been prevented or b) the driver was not drunk and remained at the scene, so clearly it is the pedestrian or bicyclist’s fault. Both are nonsensical statements and ideas.

Continue reading “Slaughter on the roadways”