Is Drunk Driving Ever Really An “Accident?”

Accident. Crash. Collision. Wreck. When talking about an incident involving cars, motorcycles, or pedestrians, people tend to use these words interchangeably. Most people use the word accident. In the paper, you read about car accidents, you hear about them on the news. If you check the practice areas section of our website, you’ll see that we use the word a lot, too. But according to some advocates, accident isn’t the word we should be using.

Really An Accident?

When something is an accident, we think of it as unintentional, or the result of simple human error. Advocates, however, like the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), believe these connotations detract from the seriousness of negligence and reckless behavior, especially drunk driving.
An accident, according to Merriam-Webster, is an “unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” When someone gets behind the wheel after a night of drinking, however, damage and harm should be foreseen. It is wildly known that alcohol severely impacts a person’s driving ability. If someone makes the choice to drive, it shouldn’t be all that surprising if they cause harm to another person. By calling it an accident, harmful actions are minimized. Full responsibility should be placed on the people who make the decision to drink and drive.

Changing The Language

Some states and organizations are taking steps to change this. The Nevada legislature enacted a law last year that changes the word “accident” to “crash” in any state laws, including those that refer to police and insurance reports. New York City and San Francisco have also implemented policies that aim to stop labeling traffic fatalities as accidents. The Associated Press‘s new policy stresses that reports should avoid the term, since it “can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible.”

What do you think? Does the word accident give the wrong idea? What word would you like to see used instead?


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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