A friend forwarded me a great article, “Traffic Injustice,” from fellow bicycle accident lawyer Bob Mionske ‘s excellent Road Rights blog. This is a great read for all cyclists but particularly for those of us who have ever had the misfortune to be in a bicycle riding “accident.”
Bob raises an excellent point about how the use of a single word — the word “accident” – can influence our perception of an event. After describing the manner in which several cyclists were killed by careless drivers, Bob points out that the investigating officers in each case concluded it was “just an accident,” as if that was some sort of excuse for the unnecessary and tragic death of the bicyclists.
Bob correctly observes:
“Many cyclists object to the use of the word ‘accident’ in describing collisions, because they too believe that ‘accident’ means nobody was at fault. So one thing that needs to be cleared up is this mistaken notion.
The word ‘accident’ does not mean that nobody was at fault. Except for the occasional Act of God, most ‘accidents’ are the result of at least one person’s negligence; somebody is almost always at fault.
‘Accident’ is actually used as a means to distinguish between collisions that are unintentional (in other words, collisions that are “accidental”) and collisions that are intentional — what we call assault with a deadly weapon, or attempted homicide or even homicide.
Nobody — especially nobody in law enforcement or the justice system — should be confusing the unintentional nature of accidental collisions with an absence of fault.
And once we understand that somebody is always at fault in the vast majority of accidents, we can start to question why negligent drivers who injure and kill are rarely, if ever, charged with an offense reflecting the severity of the harm they have caused.”
I have banished the word “accident” from my vocabulary when discussing bicycle vs. motor vehicle collisions. Sure, “accidents” DO occur, but…
it’s not an “accident” when a left-turning driver fails to see a brightly dressed cyclist with lights all over his bike,
it’s not an accident when a driver drifts 3 feet onto the shoulder, rear-ending a law-abiding cyclist at 55 mph,
it’s not an “accident” when a driver “squeezes” a cyclist in to a curb when making a right-hand turn.
Those are “collisions” that could have been (and should have been!) avoided had the driver just paid attention and obeyed the law.
Thanks for reading and RIDE SAFELY,
James B. Reed, Esq.
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Tel: (607) 733-8866
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