Words are very powerful, and the right choice of words can completely change the way something is perceived. Take, for example, the way automobile collisions are described. For years, the most polite way to describe them has been to call them "accidents." This word is used to describe everything from a minor ding in a car door to disastrous wrecks that destroy vehicles and end lives. It's kind of innocuous for something that is often so horrible, which is why some people are insisting that we use the word "crash" instead.
The effort is spearheaded by Families for Safe Streets, an organization comprised of victims of reckless driving, as well as those who have lost loved ones to traffic violence on New York streets. Families for Safe Streets and other organizations are fighting to not only have the word "crash" replace "accident" in New York, but throughout the country. The reasoning is that, since "crash" sounds so much more violent and powerful, it will inspire people to take these incidents more seriously and give credit to the fact that most of them are preventable.
When automobiles were first made available in the United States back in the 1910s and 1920s, media coverage of crashes played up their violent and gruesome nature. Not only was this sensationalistic, but it made automobiles look like dangerous killing machines. If a pedestrian was hit by a car or a driver was severely injured or killed, it was seen as the fault of the car itself. This obviously didn't sit well with automobile manufacturers, so efforts were made on the part of the automobile industry to shift the blame from cars to pedestrians or negligent drivers whenever a crash occurred. By calling collisions "accidents," it was implied that even the worst crashes were freak occurrences that were in no way the fault of a dangerous machine.
The use of the word "accident" to describe car crashes was commonplace by the 1960s, but in 1994 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration insisted that collisions be once again referred to as "crashes." In 2013, it was decided by the New York City and San Francisco police departments to stop referring to collisions as accidents.
The reason why so many people want to refer to traffic collisions as "crashes" is because it's a much more violent word. Car crashes kill thousands of people every year in the United States, and even when there are no fatalities there are still serious injuries as well as thousands of dollars' worth of damage. People need to be reminded of the seriousness of these incidents, and "accident" sounds too innocent to get that point across. A child who wets himself has an "accident;" a traffic collision that results in injury or death is a "crash." People need to remember that crashes are serious disasters that can be avoided, not freaks occurrences that just happen without reason.
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