Not Really An Accident: The Truth Behind Vehicle Wrecks

by Terry Bryant

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there was a least one major vehicle collision every 61 seconds in the state of Texas last year. There were nearly 250,000 serious injuries from these crashes. Is it possible that all of these events truly were “accidents?” Or is it more likely that someone was clearly at fault?

The word “accident” allows a guilty party to absolve themselves of responsibility, effectively saying that the event was caused by unforeseen, mutual circumstances.

The New York Times reports that, “The word was introduced into the lexicon of manufacturing and other industries in the early 1900s, when companies were looking to protect themselves from the costs of caring for workers who were injured on the job.” The companies did not want to take full responsibility for workers’ injuries and have to pay high insurance claim costs, so they cleverly (and unethically) changed the conversation. “Accident” allowed the companies to control semantics and say that the event was a rare, unavoidable hazard of the job, even if the company had been directly responsible for someone’s injuries. The Times also reports that as automobile use became more and more prevalent and collision deaths became more frequent, “a consortium of auto-industry interests, including insurers, borrowed the word to shift focus away from the cars themselves.”

In the case of an automobile collision, the word “accident” allows those who are at fault to deem the crash as beyond anyone’s control. But if someone drives drunk, falls asleep behind the wheel, goes the wrong direction down a one-way street, or speeds through a red light, is it still an accident? Or is it a product of negligence and misconduct?

As drivers in the Houston area know, there are many factors that can make our roads treacherous, including human error. There was at least one death from a traffic collision in Texas every day in 2015. Is it right to label all of these deaths a result of “accidents”?

Today, more and more states are changing their policy toward the word, opting to label the events as “crashes” or “incidents.” Texas has state troopers file “crash reports” rather than “accident reports.”

It’s time to take the word back. Car companies and insurance corporations should not be allowed to dictate who is at fault just by simple semantics. A victim deserves to know that all of the pain and suffering they were forced to endure was not merely an “accident.”