This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 24.
I hope I’m not being overly optimistic in feeling that the work of organisations such as RoadPeace, the Road Danger Reduction Forum, the Slower Speeds Initiative and many others, seems to be having a positive effect in the media. We have finally seen an acknowledgement, recently, that car ‘safety’ should not just mean the effect on occupants, but should also consider the impact on pedestrians and cyclists.
We were particularly pleased to see this article by PC Vic Smith recently in the Cambridge Evening News. We couldn’t agree more.
I AM often asked why I am so adamant about the non-use of the word “accident” when talking about vehicle collisions or crashes -especially as the word has been in existence almost as long as the motor vehicle itself.
The answer is very simple:
I fully acknowledge the findings of organisations such as CRUSE, Road Peace and the many other groups which support and help the families of those killed in road traffic collisions.
These organisations have been saying for some considerable time now, that when a person is killed, or for that matter injured, on our roads and others are left behind to pick up the pieces and try to restore some form of normality into their lives again, they find it very difficult accepting that what happened to the person they love and care about was as a result of an ‘accident’.
If I reach across a table to pick up the salt or pepper pot and, in doing so, knock over a glass of water, that is an accident, or if I turn quickly in a doorway and catch my coat pocket on the door handle, tearing the material, that, too, is an accident.
If I drive my car along a road and fail to stop in time to avoid a pedestrian who steps out in front of me, because I am travelling too fast for the prevailing conditions, or I drive around a bend too quickly, causing me to drift into the opposing lane and resulting in a collision with another vehicle… by absolutely no stretch of the imagination can these two incidents be defined as accidents.
They are quite clearly the end result of blatant negligence and disregard of all of the rules and advice given and freely available to all road users.
Unfortunately, by the constant use of the word “accident” we will continue to give those who put other people’s lives at risk an easy way out, by allowing them to excuse the consequences of their actions: “It wasn’t my fault and anyway it was an accident”.
I know change is always a slow process, but if one thing should change and change without delay, this is it. We must all stop minimising the true level of our personal responsibility when using our roads and when we do get it wrong, for what ever reason, we must be prepared to take the consequences, because we have the power to prevent it happening in the first place, by simply taking care.
Very rarely, if ever, do true ‘accidents’ occur on our roads.