‘Car Accident’ Or ‘Traffic Violence’? Crash Vocabulary Is Changing

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When there is a collision between vehicles, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist, it is often described as an accident. New research, however, shows that this type of rhetoric is dangerous.

The term “accident” indicates that no one was at fault and that the event was unpreventable, even though most car crashes can be prevented, research shows. This is why safety advocates want people to remove the term “accident” from their vocabulary when describing car crashes. Advocates are particularly urging changes from the media and law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene after a crash.

Car Accident vs. Traffic Violence

The biggest problem with the term “accident” is that it downplays the seriousness of car crashes. A new study published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives shows that it is true that the vocabulary used when discussing car crashes is important and affects the way people view these collisions.

When the term “accident” is used, people tend to think that nothing could be done to prevent the event. This type of wording may also lead people to think there is nothing they can do to stop these crashes from occurring in the future. They may believe that these collisions are simply the price people pay when they live in a society that requires vehicles to interact with other cars and people.

Safety advocates argue that using terms such as “collision” and “crash” simply is not enough. They want law enforcement and the media to start using the term “traffic violence.” Using this term, safety groups say, will indicate that a driver was at fault for the crash and will more effectively show just how dangerous and preventable these crashes are.

The term “traffic violence” should be used especially when a crash is caused by a drunk driver, or when a pedestrian or cyclist is injured, safety experts say.

How Wording Affects Perception of Fault

Safety advocates state that changing the perception of crashes is much more than just removing the term “accident” and replacing it with “traffic violence.” When talking about these collisions, there are better practices that everyone should use. According to the study, these include:

  • Focus on human involvement: When reporting on crashes, it is recommended to shift from “object-based” language to “person-based” language. For example, currently, a crash may be reported as: “A truck and a car were involved in a serious accident.” The better description would be: “A truck driver who was talking on the phone ran into a passenger vehicle carrying four people, causing severe injuries.” This shifts the focus to the people involved and shows that the driver was to blame vs. it being a mere accident involving two faultless parties.
  • Beware of victim-blaming language: It is natural to place a sympathetic focus on the victim of a crash. However, making statements such as, “A pedestrian ran into the road,” indicates that the victim was to blame. Leaving this vocabulary out altogether is a much better practice.
  • Quantify the amount of crashes: It is easy to think that crashes are inevitable when people do not understand how often they occur. However, stating the amount of collisions that have happened in a short amount of time can help everyone understand how problematic these crashes are, and that there is something everyone can do to prevent them.

The more people can adjust their language and thinking related to car crashes, the sooner everyone may begin to understand that most collisions are preventable.

Injured in a Car Crash? Our Attorneys Can Help

If you have been a victim of traffic violence, our Houston car crash lawyers at The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian understand that you are likely suffering from serious injuries. We also know that you may be entitled to compensation to help you recover from your losses.

If you are hurt, contact us today to schedule your free consultation so we can review your case and explain your legal options.