Recent Cycling Deaths Were Not “Accidents”

Bicycle on the Ground That Was Hit By a CarWe have a tendency as a society to remove people from collisions and refer to the actors as vehicles. Think of the nightly news headline that reads: “Semi truck collides with 3 bicycles.” There are 4 people in this collision who we know nothing about.

The headline should read: “Truck driver strikes 3 people on bicycles.” This headline makes us think about the people involved beyond their roles as operating vehicles.

Another mistake we make is in how we refer to collisions. When people operating vehicles collide, many call it an accident. Merriam Webster defines an “accident” as an event that is not planned or intended, or an event that occurs by chance. There is no mention of fault or negligence in that definition. But, without someone making a mistake, there would be no collision. By definition, a crash caused by someone’s negligence cannot be an accident.
 
Every collision on the road is caused by driver behavior, rather driver error. Labeling crashes as accidents allows people who cause these collisions to remove themselves (and their poor decisions) from the equation. I say all of this because every day people die on roads in “accidents” that could have been prevented if drivers made better choices.

In Jacksonville, Florida, two people are in the hospital in critical condition after a man driving a Mustang ran a stop sign and crashed into them while they were riding their tandem bike last week.  Notice that a person disregarded the law and caused the collision. This was not an event that simply occurred “by chance,” although the news outlets reporting the incident refer to it as an accident.

Another man in Kalamazoo, Michigan struck nine people on bicycles last week. You read that correctly, nine people. Five of those people were killed. In contrast to the Jacksonville crash, news outlets covering this story are referring to this as a crash, possibly because the driver is being charged with five counts of second degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment.

When are we going to acknowledge that drivers (aka people) are causing these injuries and deaths by affirmatively choosing to speed, disregard traffic signs and signals, drive while drunk, send and read text messages while driving and do countless other things that take their attention off the road?

Does someone have to be killed for people to acknowledge fault in a collision?

People who violate the law and disregard the safety of others don’t get to call their collisions “accidents” because they are to blame. Let’s start using the word “accident” correctly and hold people accountable for their behavior.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.
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