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Why We Need to Stop Calling Them Auto “Accidents”

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An SUV strikes and kills several cyclists.

Three injured in tragic car accident.

Car jumps curb and barrels into lamppost.

These are all examples of headlines or descriptions of car crashes you might find in your local newspaper. It’s common to hear such incidents referred to as “accidents,” and described in a way that implies no one was responsible. Too often, stories about traffic crashes omit any mention of human involvement at all, as if the automobile itself took control.

What’s the problem with using this kind of language to talk about collisions? Calling crashes “accidents” suggests that the incident was unavoidable, and depicting cars as autonomous murderers exonerates the drivers at fault. But presenting crashes as inescapable tragedies is dangerously misleading. The reality is that the vast majority of car “accidents” can be prevented through safe driving behavior and smart choices, and drivers who cause these incidents should be held accountable.

Recently, safety advocates and writers from publications such as City Lab have drawn attention to this issue, spearheading a movement to remove the word “accident” from transportation discussions completely. Advocates urged media personnel, law officials, and the general public alike to eliminate “accident” in favor of more honest, accurate terms—such as “collision” or “crash.”

Making the change in language may be able to help change the way America thinks about auto crashes. By thinking of crashes as preventable incidents rather than accidents, we put ourselves back in control of our fates and remind ourselves that we can do something to avoid traffic tragedies.

How You Can Help Prevent Traffic Tragedies

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So what can you do to help prevent traffic crashes? You can reduce your chances of causing or falling victim to a tragic collision by following these key driving safety tips.

Seek routine maintenance. You should take your vehicle in for a checkup and maintenance on a regular basis. This ensures that your car won’t cause a collision because of a malfunction like faulty breaks or a blown tire. It also ensures your car will be able to maneuver quickly and effectively in an unexpected situation.

Position yourself safely. You can help to ensure you are in control of your vehicle by positioning yourself in a way that allows you to access the steering wheel and floor pedals easily and quickly in the event of an emergency.

Set up your mirrors. Before starting your car, you should adjust all of your mirrors to give you the best view of the traffic behind you.

Keep your hands at 10 and 2. Imagine your steering wheel is a clock. When you drive, you should keep your left hand on the 10 o’clock position and your right hand placed at the 2 o’clock position. This sets you up for the smoothest and fastest reaction in the event of an emergency.

Be aware of blind spots. You should be aware of all of your vehicle’s blind spots that obstruct your sight of the traffic around you. The most common blind spots in cars block you from seeing other vehicles when they are driving alongside you at a certain angle.  Whenever you change lanes, be sure to check your blind spot by turning your head to ensure the lane is clear.

Avoid tailgating. It’s advisable to allow a three-second lead between you and the car in front of you at all times to give yourself time to stop or maneuver quickly in the event of emergency. During inclement weather, you should allow at least a five-second lead between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Avoid driving during inclement weather or at night. Ice, snow, and heavy rain make for dangerous driving conditions. Similarly, driving at night can be dangerous, since you may have difficulty seeing clearly and are more likely to be tired. At night, there’s also a much greater chance of encountering an intoxicated driver.

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Do not speed. When you drive at high speeds, you have less time to respond to an emergency or unexpected situation. Speeding is one of the most common causes of car crashes.

Keep your mind clear and on the road. When you are driving, eliminate all distractions so you can keep your full attention on the road. You should avoid using your phone, fumbling with music or navigation systems, eating, drinking, or grooming while driving at all costs. Always drive with a clear mind, and never after drinking or taking strong medications.

Talk to a car crash attorney. If you are involved in an auto crash caused by another, you can help make the roads safer by holding the negligent driver accountable by filing a lawsuit against them. Not only will a lawsuit help you obtain compensation for medical bills and other recovery-costs, it will help you raise awareness of the fact that there are no auto “accidents,” and dangerous drivers should be held responsible for the damage they cause.

About the Author:

A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

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