Wednesday, September 09, 2015

They're not car "accidents. They're car "crashes."

The gist is changing the way we use language, so as to change the way we view reality.

Families for Safe Streets has launched a campaign to get people to say “crash” instead of “accident.” They want to emphasize that many, if not most, traffic fatalities are preventable—not inevitable occurrences.

It would help. It also would be beneficial for our process of issuing drivers licenses to require prospective drivers to walk a few blocks in this or any other city, just so it can be seen how badly we drive. I don't exclude myself from this assessment; I've had my share of lapses. Perhaps it's of less significance in the countryside, where the odds of causing harm to another are less.

But here in the city, speed and recklessness kill. Can we be honest about it with the language we use? And, shouldn't we harness better design to discourage the likelihood of crashes, accidents, and general auto-borne mayhem?

Why We Say 'Car Accident,' and Why We Need to Stop: The term suggests fatal crashes are inevitable and beyond our control—they're not, by Sarah Goodyear (City Lab)

... Most people in the United States are compelled by the design of the places where they live to drive nearly everywhere. They are locked into a system where the car is a required tool for fully enfranchised citizenship—the only sensible and convenient way to get to work, to the store, to the doctor’s office, to school.

Anyone who has driven more than a few thousand miles in his or her lifetime has had the unnerving experience of a near miss. Get going fast enough, which is precisely what cars enable you to do, and even a momentary lapse of attention can have you drifting onto the shoulder, or making an unsafe turn. Drive hour after hour, day after day, year after year, and the potential for error mounts.

On some level, we all know that driving is a dangerous activity, probably the most dangerous thing that the average person does in a lifetime. We know that every time we turn the key in the ignition, we are powering up a machine that gives us a stupendous and potentially deadly power. But most of us are in no position to choose another mode of transportation. Most of us must accept the responsibility of piloting that machine as the baseline price of admission to America.

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