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Words matter. Aaron Naparstek says No Accident.

Aaron Naparstek is a writer, scholar and cycling advocate. He is the founder and editor of the alternative transportation watchdog and news blog: Streetsblog.

He has just published a piece on use of language when involved with motor vehicle crashes, specifically those involved with cyclists and pedestrians. Words matter and have a powerful effect on changing policy and addressing street violence caused by cars and trucks.

No Accident. It’s Time to Change the Way We Talk About Motor Vehicle Violence

A few years ago, the New York Times published a five-sentence brief about a man who “intentionally ran over five people” with an SUV after a fight in North Bellmore, Long Island. The driver, the Times reported, “fled the scene of the accident.” The police later located the vehicle that “they believed was involved in the accident.” One of the victims was in critical condition.

Ho hum. News briefs about the previous day’s car crashes are as routine as box scores and the weather forecast. Yet, in this case, the Times’ (and, presumably, the Nassau County cops’) choice of one particular word stood out: If a man intentionally ran over five people, how could that possibly be considered an accident? If, instead of car keys, the man had picked up a gun and shot five people, would the press and police have called that an “accident” too? No. They’d have called it “attempted homicide.” Yet, for some reason when the weapon is a car, when the violence on our streets is done with a motor vehicle, it’s always just an “accident.”

Read more: here.

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