When Talking About Crashes, Why Do We Blame the Victims?

by Terry Bryant

When a driver hits another car, a pedestrian, or cyclist, we can be too quick to habitually blame the victim for the accident instead of the driver who is responsible. This unfair victim accusation is based in part on human psychology, with negligent (or careless) drivers (and their insurers) all too willing to perpetuate this myth in order to serve their own interests.

Many articles found in respectable publications such as Psychology Today and other mental health-related periodicals agree that the human subconscious has difficulty accepting “accidents” at face value; by doing so, the human tendency to blame the victim is ultimately self-protective. It allows us to maintain our view that the world is a safe place and reassures our psyche that nothing bad will happen – at least to us. This reinforces the belief human beings share that we control our individual environments and that accident victims are themselves to blame for their own misfortunes. Sometimes even victims themselves may buy into this theory. The truth, however, is usually very different.

Intentionally or not, the person driving the “at-fault” vehicle is the one who caused the accident. Current technological advancements notwithstanding, today’s cars still don’t drive themselves. Someone is behind the wheel. Granted, there can be mitigating circumstances which are “underlying causes” of many vehicle accidents, such as bad or conflicting road signs or traffic signals, sudden obstacles in the road, or construction work zones, to name a few.

Most accidents are the direct result of driver behavior: speeding, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or distracted or aggressive driving. Even the term “traffic accident” is itself a misnomer. It’s a crash, a smash up, a wreck. It’s the product of someone’s negligence or carelessness, whether it’s that of the driver, the road designer, the traffic engineer, the defective vehicle or part manufacturer. In the world of automobile travel, the only true accident is the one caused by a person who suddenly suffers a heart attack or stroke or some other similar, sudden debilitating health crisis behind the wheel. And the only thing the accident victim did was not get out of the way in time.

Probably the easiest example of this unequal behavior is the unfortunate bicycle victim.  All the cyclist is trying to do is coexist on his or her small share of the road while cars and trucks buzz within inches of their completely vulnerable selves. Many drivers reluctantly share the road, while quietly grumbling that cyclists should have their own “roadways” apart from the street.

And motorcyclists have it just as bad. Since the film industry has characterized “bikers” as reckless neer-do-wells for over 60 years, or kids are occasionally seen racing on streets and freeways, a lot of folks still subconsciously believe that ALL bikers are wild and out-of-control. Actually, the average motorcyclist is in his 50’s, has a family and a mortgage, and rides to save gas and to relax out on the open road.

This switching of blame for accidents from driver to victim distracts us from the fact that too many drivers injure others in wrecks because they drive unsafely, or city engineers don’t always design safe roadways; or vehicle manufacturers don’t always make their cars, trucks, tires, airbags, or parts safe and reliable.

We’re not saying that this is a black and white issue. But the first step toward viewing vehicle wreck victims fairly is to lose our preconceptions, which can run much deeper than many of us are willing to admit.

If you or a family member has suddenly become a vehicle wreck victim, the legal team at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law is here to help you recover full and fair damage compensation from the negligent party who injured you. Reach out to us and schedule a free case evaluation through the contact feature of this website, or call the number at the top of this page anytime, day or night.