No accidents — just crashes or collisions

When a motor vehicle hits another motor vehicle, when a driver loses control while negotiating a curve or when a vehicle skids off a snow-covered road, they are called “accidents.” But are they really accidents? The connotation of the word “accident” is that it was out of anyone’s control or unpreventable.

But are “accidents” really unpreventable? Is there no way to avoid them? Certainly accidents are unintentional – no one tries to hit another car on purpose. No driver intentionally drives off the road into a tree. But when you analyze these crashes, in almost every case, someone violated a traffic law. Did they just happen or were there things that could have been done to prevent them from happening?

Did the vehicle that hit another vehicle cross the center line because one driver was adjusting the radio and took his eyes and mind off his driving for a few seconds? Was the driver that went off the road while rounding that curve going too fast? Did the driver that lost control on a snowy road not realize that he/she was going too fast for the slippery road conditions?

Maybe the word “accident” could be used to describe an otherwise vigilant driver that was unable to avoid a tree that suddenly fell across the road. This could be considered out of anyone’s control. But consider the case of St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Josh Hancock, who was tragically killed in 2007 when his rented SUV slammed into the back of a tow truck that was stopped on the highway, lights flashing, at the scene of a previous crash. As described in the book “Traffic” by Tom Vanderbuilt, Hancock (who had just days before crashed his own SUV) had a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit, was speeding, was not wearing a seat belt and was on a cellphone at the time of the crash. Can this possibly be called an “accident?”

Describing our involvement in “accidents” takes away, or at least minimizes, our own responsibility. It seems to provide a protective cover for our poor driving behaviors. It suggests that the 40,000 or so fatalities every year in the United States just happen, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. How wrong. But it won’t really change until we as drivers realize that this complex task actually requires skill, intelligent decisions and full attention, both mentally and physically, to the control of the vehicle you are operating.

So change your thinking from accidents being something that just happens to crashes or collisions, and the fact that they actually are predictable AND preventable.

For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at: and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments. “Like” us on Facebook as well. You may also call me, Dave Werner at 518-483-1882 with your comments and questions or email