The distinction between crash and accident is an important one

The distinction between crash and accident is an important one

Category: Auto Accidents

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It’s not often that this column changes the course of politics in Illinois, but I’m going to enjoy the faint possibility that in this small way it has.

State Rep. Tom Weber, a Lake Villa Republican, has put forth legislation that would change “accidents” to “crashes” in state laws and state publications to describe vehicular, um, mishaps.

“Most, if not all, motor vehicle collisions are avoidable. Many are the result of reckless driving, drinking and driving or distracted driving,” Weber said in a news release. “Accidents don’t happen as the result of a person’s willful or negligent actions, crashes do. To continue to refer to these incidents in state law as ‘accidents’ is offensive to the many families who have lost loved ones throughout the state.”

Amen, Tom. This has been SOP at the newspaper for as long as I can remember.

I’ve been screeching for years that word choice is important in the stories we write about this sort of thing. I’m going to assume that Rep. Weber has encountered one of my columns on the subject and let it sink in osmotically.

When someone is drag racing on a street and hits a light pole, that is not an accident.

When someone decides to text his girlfriend to chit chat — and doesn’t see the pedestrian in the crosswalk in front of him — that’s not an accident. When someone chooses to down a few boilermakers and get behind the wheel, that person’s impairment is a matter of choice. Getting behind the wheel is a matter of choice.

And while crashing into a school might not have been the drinker’s intention, the driver’s careless disregard for what could happen while driving a two-ton vehicle in a state of intoxication is not “accidental.”

It’s not an accident. It’s a crash.

I hate to be preachy in what’s supposed to be a lighthearted column, but I’m passionate about the subject.

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