Blaming Driver Behavior Instead of Accidents

Blaming Driver Behavior Instead of Accidents

With roadway fatalities reaching a 50 year high, resulting from crashes, collisions and other driver generated incidents, a growing number of safety advocates hope to change a century-old mentality they claim trivializes the most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.

As a first step, these advocates would prefer these incidents, which resulted in about 38,000 deaths in 2015, no longer be called auto accidents since almost all of them resulted from drinking, distracted driving and other risky driver activities. Only about 6% were caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors.

According to Peter Norton, a historian and associate professor at the University of Virginia, the word “accident” was introduced into the manufacturing lexicon in the early 1900s, as companies sought to protect themselves from the costs of caring for workers who were injured on the job.

When traffic deaths spiked in the 1920s, auto-industry interests seized upon the word to shift the focus away from vehicles to drivers. Again according to Peter Norton, “Automakers were very interested in blaming reckless drivers.”

At least 28 state departments of transportation have already moved away from the term “accident” when referring to roadway incidents, according to the Director of Highway Safety for Massachusetts. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed its own policy nearly 20 years ago, it has recently become more vocal about the issue.

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