I’ve been reading Is There a Problem, Officer? by Steve Pomper, who wrote:

“It is a collision, not an accident … I can’t recall one offhand that was a true accident – where neither party was guilty of having done something wrong. In the vast majority of cases, one party or the other (or both) has done something wrong, whether intentionally or inadvertently, to cause the collision. Bottom line: They just weren’t careful enough.” (page 193)

Hooray! I have said that for YEARS. Our avoid-responsibility-at-any-cost society cherishes the term. “Of course you didn’t do anything wrong, honey – it was just an accident.” Never mind that he was talking on his cell phone, she hadn’t gotten around to having the brakes fixed, he cut across three lanes of traffic to make his exit, she was applying makeup or reaching around to adjust her kid’s carseat when the collision occurred; the blessed term “accident” means it wasn’t their fault. It just happened.

That is so dangerous for responsible drivers that it terrifies me, and I raised my kids to never call it an “accident.” I used the term “wreck” but Officer Pomper’s term “collision” is much more precise, and I hereby happily adopt it. (Thank you, Officer.) When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are responsible for what it does. The car doesn’t have a mind of its own. When my new-driver son had a collision, it was because he didn’t turn his head to check before changing lanes. (Even after my years of drumming in to ALWAYS, ALWAYS turn your head to check, and telling both kids that saves me from about 2-3 collisions per year.) When my husband suffered a collision early in our marriage, he was minding his own business waiting to make a left turn, while someone not paying attention barrelled down on him — but he wasn’t watching his rear-view mirror and he had his wheels already turned, which meant when the idiot hit him, he was pushed across oncoming traffic and the collision became much worse. (The car was totaled, he was knocked out and had to stay overnight in the hospital.) And don’t even get me started on the drivers who think that because they are in a vehicle with 4-wheel drive, they can fly along snowy/icy roads at normal speed. There is nothing accidental about them ending up on the side of the road, upside down and/or facing the wrong way.

So whatever it is when inattention or carelessness or anger results in damage to a motor vehicle (and possibly people as well), it’s not an accident.

BTW, the book is worth reading. Check out my “book reviews” page in the left-hand column to see my review of it.

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