What’s in a word? A while back, administrators at the Kansas Highway Patrol asked reporters to stop calling car crashes “accidents.”
Crashes are preventable, but the word “accident” implies no one is at fault, it just happened, and nothing could have been done to prevent the outcome. In reality, most crashes occur when a driver is distracted, exceeding the speed limit or fails to replace bald tires. Or maybe the road was poorly designed, or riddled with potholes.
Even the website that chronicles injury collisions is called the “Kansas Highway Patrol Online Crash Logs,” not “KHP Accident Logs.”
The purpose isn’t to make people feel bad or to blame the victim, but to change the thought process of drivers so they may be more aware whenever they get behind the wheel. Changing words can lead to safer actions.
It’s also known as “defensive driving.” According to the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving Course, that means “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”
The intent behind “crashes not accidents” can apply to more than vehicular collisions. Sigmund Freud gets the credit for saying, “there are no accidents.” If you “accidentally” break the gift your mother-in-law made, perhaps you secretly wanted to get rid of it.
The term “Freudian slip” refers to saying what you really mean, such as, “Would you like a chilled grease sandwich?” It’s when you say one thing and mean your mother.
Nowadays, we laugh over funny auto-corrections made in cell phone texts, but you have to wonder if our technology is deliberately mocking us:
“Do you have time to cut my hair on Tuesday?”
“No idiot, I’m booked all week.”
“OMG It’s supposed to say, ‘No I don’t,’ not idiot! Sorry Mom.”
Others attribute the saying “there are no accidents” to Deepak Chopra or Kung Fu Panda, which makes me wonder if it is entirely true. All I can say is, I’m looking forward to cars that will drive themselves. I think I’m in the minority on that, however.
Susan Thacker is news editor of the Great Bend Tribune. Send comments to email@example.com.