If you accidentally spill coffee on your trousers, that’s one thing, but if a driver’s speeding car slams into a bus stop, killing a child in the process, it’s clearly different…so why does the language we use rarely distinguish between the two? While one can be dismissed as an accident, the other deserves to be described more carefully – nothing less than collision or crash will do.
After all, words are powerful. It’s the reason we avoid the term ‘road safety’, preferring instead ‘road danger reduction’, which far more accurately defines the challenge at hand.
When collisions occur on the railways, at sea or in the air, there are enquiries to determine their causes. Those responsible for piloting the planes, driving the trains or skippering the ships are suspended from duty pending the outcome and appropriate changes to systems, regulation or the law are implemented swiftly.
It’s not altogether clear why the same thing doesn’t happen following every road fatality in Britain, but until it does, let’s at least be mindful of the way we describe road danger.
When the media use the term ‘accident’, it implies the collision wasn’t preventable. The term ‘crash’ does not imply the driver is always to blame, it simply acknowledges that the matter deserves serious investigation and remedial measures to try and prevent it happening again. It’s an approach that has allowed other European countries to introduce a Vision Zero – a serious attempt to prevent all deaths on the road.
Britain a long way off implementing its own Vision Zero, but choosing our words carefully when we describe road danger would be a meaningful first step.
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Not only are we Britain’s most ethical insurance company, we campaign for sustainable transport. Sometimes that means protesting until a school gets the zebra crossing they’ve been refused, or running 60 roadshows this year to encourage people out of their cars, or fixing bicycles for free. Supporting this work is easy – you simply have to take out insurance with us. We provide home insurance, cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover – all while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.