Cars collide every day. Vehicles are damaged, sometimes people are hurt, and tragically, lives are lost. But are they crashes or accidents? A growing movement seeks to reframe car accidents as crashes, and with good reason. According to the NHTSA, 94% of car crashes are caused by driver error. Those aren’t accidents. Calling them accidents takes the blame away from drivers, instead of encouraging them to take responsibility and change the way they drive.
It’s the Law
Advocates around the world are seeking to change the mentality that crashes just happen. Drivers need to learn that they are at fault, that safe roads start with them. In some places, it’s becoming the law to call crashes what they are. In Nevada, the word accident was changed to crash in dozens of state laws, while NYC policies state that we must “no longer regard traffic crashes as mere accidents.” More than 28 state DOTs have followed suit.
What about just creating safer roads? Install some speed humps, put speed display signs in, won’t that stop crashes from happening? The truth is that cities do have to do their part to create safer streets. Engineering roads that are safer for all users is an important aspect of keeping drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians safe. But ultimately, the key component of safer streets is the driver behind the wheel. Even a slight distraction away from the road puts everyone in danger.
With an endless array of apps, music streaming, and messages beckoning today’s drivers, it should be no surprise that fatality rates are on the rise. Every distraction, digital or otherwise, affects driver’s perception response time (PRT). Anytime a driver encounters something unexpected, she must detect the object, decide whether it’s a hazard, choose how to respond, and then act. Driving is a complex activity that requires complete attention. Almost all crashes can be avoided. But drivers need to try.