Not an Accident


August 19, 2010
By: Shaun de Jager

This was no accident and nor is any collision on our roadways. It’s time people start calling things what they really are. This was a ‘crash’ or a ‘collision’. Not an accident. What’s the difference you ask? An ‘Accident’ is something that is unavoidable and unforeseen. Collisions or crashes ARE predictable and therefore avoidable

When we go out on our roads, there is always a chance of being involved in a crash. Lets face it…it happens several times a day. Although…if they happen everyday, they are predictable. So how do you avoid them? Well for starters pay attention to your surroundings and road conditions. By keeping a careful watch on the vehicles around you, you are more able to spot certain behaviours that may lead to trouble. It only takes one person to not pay attention to create the conditions for a collision. However, it only takes one person who is paying attention to recognise those developing conditions and avoid them entirely. It’s a simple thing called ‘Situational Awareness’ but it’s something that is sorely lacking on our roads – especially among car drivers. The most attentive road users are motorcyclists and professional truck drivers. Both know full well that they must be well aware of everything going on around them and plan well ahead while navigating our dangerous roadways.

So what’s wrong with the term ‘accident’? We’ve been calling it that for decade’s right? Yes we have but it’s the wrong term to use because every crash on our roads is in fact avoidable and there is always someone responsible for it. Crashes as a result of Drinking and Driving are avoidable. Crashes that are a result of careless or distracted driving are avoidable. Even crashes that occur because of mechanical failures are avoidable (check your tire pressures, brakes, etc. basically make sure that your vehicle is mechanically sound and your wheels won’t fall off).

My biggest issue with the term ‘accident’ is that it seems to absolve a person’s sense of accountability for what happened – even when deemed at fault. A fellow tells his friend “Oh I had an accident yesterday” and his friend replies “It’s ok…it was an accident. You couldn’t avoid it. It happens so don’t worry about it.” This is such a poor attitude to take. Yes you probably could have avoided it had you paid more attention to your surroundings. Why are collisions acceptable? They shouldn’t be acceptable at all but we blow them off because we call them accidents – it was unavoidable. I didn’t do anything wrong! Maybe…but there’s always more that you could have done ‘right’ to have avoided it altogether.

“The guy ran a red light and T-Boned me!” Sure…ok…but you were making a left hand turn, so it’s your responsibility to ensure that you can make that turn safely. It’s not the red light that stops a car at an intersection; it’s the driver of the car approaching it. You are assuming that other driver is paying attention to the lights. You are ultimately responsible for what happens to you on our roads. If that car approaching the red light isn’t slowing down fast enough…assume that he won’t stop at all. If you don’t have a clear view of on-coming traffic…don’t risk making that turn until you do.

This is just one example but I could go on and on with other situations that could result in a collision and how to avoid them just by paying more attention and making alternate assumptions. If I can – so can you. Therefore crashes on our roads are NOT accidents – they are avoidable. There is almost always a shared responsibility for what happens regardless of who is found at fault by either the police or your insurance company.

If you want to reduce your chance of being in a ‘collision’, pay more attention to your surroundings and road conditions and get some advanced driver training. Those added skills could save your life.

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