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Why 'accident' is a misnomer for motor vehicle collisions

Isn't it interesting that we use the word "accident" to describe an incident where two motor vehicles collide? Sure, there are times where a collision between two vehicles is truly accidental in nature, but more often than not, someone is at fault for the wreck. These collisions aren't "accidents," at least not by the literal definition of the word. And yet regardless of the context of a car crash -- may there be a drunk driver or a speeding driver involved -- it is, without fail, called an accident.

Even though everyone knows what is meant by calling something a car accident, the word "accident" implies no fault, or that someone simply couldn't avoid the inevitable outcome. To the contrary though, many "accidents" involve people who were well in control of their actions leading up to or during the "accident."

Since everyone immediately recognizes what a car accident is, it's not like we're going to suddenly change the mind of every person in regards to what to call a collision between motor vehicles. "Collision" works. So does "accident," as does "crash" and "wreck." There are plenty of other words and phrases that can be used.

We merely want to indicate that "accident" paints a certain picture, even if it is a subtle one, that the drivers somehow aren't at fault for what transpired. There are plenty of cases where a driver is at fault for what he or she did behind the wheel, and they have to be held responsible for what they did -- regardless of whether their wreck is described as an "accident" or not.

Source: Star Tribune, "Is a car crash ever an accident?," Nicole Norfleet, Oct. 31, 2014

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