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Do crash and accident mean the same thing?

Most of us, when describing an incident where two vehicles collide, will say that there was a car crash or a car accident. To the majority of us, the two words, crash and accident, convey the same thing.

But there actually is a difference.

What is the difference between “crash” and “accident”?

When we say “accident” we imply that the collision was unavoidable and is no one’s fault. “Crash” indicates that something someone did or failed to do was the cause of the collision. In fact, the Michigan Department of Transportation has promoted a campaign to change the everyday use of these two words to be more accurate. The Michigan DOT has even created a YouTube video to promote this idea.

Distracted driving causes crashes, not accidents

The fact is, when a driver fails to pay attention to the road, crashes, not accidents happen. Every year, according to the National Safety Council, drivers on cell phones cause 1.6 million crashes. In 2019 alone,  3,142 people lost their lives because of distracted driving, per US Department of Transportation research data.

Crashes cause injuries. Each year nearly 400,000 injuries are caused by people texting when they should be driving. Looked at another way, one out of every four crashes in the US are the result of someone who felt it was more important to text than it was to focus on the road.

Duty of care and driving

Of course people make mistakes. An afternoon storm may blow in and you might forget to turn your headlights on. Georgia law accounts for this in its modified comparative negligence approach, as we discussed in our October blog post.

It is important to remember that whenever you get behind the wheel you owe a duty of care to the other drivers and people on the road. By texting and driving, drunk or drugged driving or any other conscious act of negligence, that duty of reasonable care is broached. Any resulting collision is not then an accident, it is a crash. The folks who are injured are the victims of a crash caused by negligence. The distracted (drunk or drugged) driver (or their insurance company) is then liable.