The Law Offices of John Phebus

NHTSA: crashes are not ‘accidents’

The federal government has over the years launched many initiatives to improve safety on America’s highways, streets and roads. Some of the initiatives were successful – there is little doubt that seatbelt laws have helped save thousands of lives – while other efforts fell short.

One well-intentioned effort launched back in 1997, might fit best into the category of falling short of making a significant difference in motorist safety. Back then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration argued that the word “accident” rarely applies to motor vehicle collisions. Instead, the NHTSA argued, the word “crash” is applicable and would help people understand that “accidents” don’t involve destiny or luck, but can almost always be traced to a poor decision by a driver.

It doesn’t appear today, some 18 years later, that many Americans have dropped “accident” in favor of “crash” when referring to vehicle collisions or collisions involving a vehicle or a motorcyclist, pedestrian or bicyclist.

But let’s take a look at the argument the NHTSA made: “Traffic crashes aren't ‘accidents.’ They are both predictable and preventable.” The agency said people could dramatically reduce injuries and fatalities in crashes by using seatbelts. While that’s certainly true, and seatbelt use is more prevalent today than in the past, it’s also true that crashes become much more likely when drivers engage in certain behaviors.

For example, multiple recent studies have proven that texting while driving (something that wasn’t really a safety factor in 1997) dramatically increases the chances of being in a crash. The same is true of impaired driving, drowsy driving and driving at speeds above the posted limits.

For those who are seriously injured by drivers engaged in unsafe behavior, the most important thing is to regain your health. Of course, doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries and physical rehab are all exorbitantly expensive. That’s why your choice of a Phoenix-area personal injury attorney is so important. An experienced attorney knows the law, Maricopa County courts and most important, knows how to protect you and your family.


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