Matthew Beard was only twenty-one years old when he was struck by a drunk driver on December 21, 2006. An avid scuba diver and student at Florida State University, Matthew had dreams of one day becoming a marine biologist. Unfortunately, these dreams were stolen from him, as he died from his injuries just four days after Christmas.
While the media were quick to label this tragedy an “accident,” Matthew’s mother, Connie Russell, knew that it was anything but:
Accident: An unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought.
All too often, crashes resulting from drunk, drugged, and distracted driving are referred to as “accidents.” This is incorrect, in spite of the common misconception that if a person doesn’t intend for something bad to happen, then it’s an accident. However, the definition of the “A” word makes no mention of intent—only misconduct.
And when it comes to misconduct, there is perhaps none so dangerous as getting behind the wheel of a car drunk, drugged, or distracted.
The Drop The “A” Word campaign is made up of a diverse group of highway safety advocates and organizations, victims groups, media, law enforcement, and others united in an effort to discontinue the improper and dangerous use of the word “accident” when referring to roadway incidents.
Why is the “A” word so dangerous in this context? First off, the connotation of the word is that there is no fault—and this simply isn’t the case. While there are some faultless crashes, the fact is that roughly 93% of crashes result from human error. When we automatically refer to all incidents as “accidents,” it implies that they are faultless before investigation has even been completed. The result is that many drivers who are at fault are treated as if they are not.
Accidents are unpredictable. However, drunk, drugged, and distracted drivers are much more likely statistically to be involved in a crash. In other words, they are predictable. Thus, labelling them as accidental is incorrect. For this reason, our goal is to promote the use of terms that more accurately reflect the realities of such occurrences, such as crash, collision, and wreck.