War on Cars Watch: ‘Car Accident’ Or ‘Traffic Violence’? The Way We Talk About Crashes Is Evolving

Some street safety advocates have adopted the term “traffic violence” when describing car-related collisions, particularly when a pedestrian or cyclist is injured or killed.

Their basic argument is that longtime use of the word “accident” minimizes the prevalence and seriousness, and creates a perception block about who is responsible when a driver kills someone with their car. The word “accident” suggests nothing could have been done to predict or prevent the collision.

“When you say the word ‘accidents’, you make it sound like it couldn’t have been avoided,” said John Yi, who leads the street safety advocacy groupĀ Los Angeles Walks. “It’s important to really change that kind of vocabulary so people don’t get confused and think these things just happen and this is just a cost we pay living… in a society where we use cars.”

And new research found that changing that language does impact people’s understanding of car crashes, who’s to blame, and what to do to make streets safer.