Monday, August 25, 2014

No Accident

From Transportation Alternatives -- A few years ago, the New York Times published a five-sentence brief about a man who “intentionally ran over five people” with an SUV after a fight in North Bellmore, Long Island. The driver, the Times reported, “fled the scene of the accident.” The police later located the vehicle that “they believed was involved in the accident.” One of the victims was in critical condition.

Ho hum. News briefs about the previous day’s car crashes are as routine as box scores and the weather forecast. Yet, in this case, the Times’ (and, presumably, the Nassau County cops’) choice of one particular word stood out: If a man intentionally ran over five people, how could that possibly be considered an accident? If, instead of car keys, the man had picked up a gun and shot five people, would the press and police have called that an “accident” too? No. They’d have called it “attempted homicide.” Yet, for some reason when the weapon is a car, when the violence on our streets is done with a motor vehicle, it’s always just an “accident.” [Full article ...]

Poster's note: Hopefully, we're a little better than this in Delaware. The latest bicyclist to be run down (Route 273 @ Ruthar) only a few week ago was charged with Vehicular Homicide, and the word "accident" was not used in any articles describing it. Regardless, all journalists need to understand that their choice of words can have a major impact on public perception and safety, and can shape the world we live in. Most car crashes should be referred to as incidents, and not accidents because the driver is engaging in a known dangerous activity when it happens.

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