Crashes vs. Accidents

I saw a car crash last night.  Three cars were involved.  It was on one of Ogden’s widest and busiest streets, Washington Boulevard.   There are three lanes each direction as well as dedicated bike lanes and wide shoulders.  It’s a big, busy street and it’s fairly popular with cyclists.  I ride this stretch of road every day.

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Washington Boulevard just north of the scene of the crash.

Car number one was in the left lane heading north.  The driver had slowed down for a dog running ahead of him in the road.  Car number two was following car number one and slowed down, but she didn’t give herself enough room.  Car number three  was following car number two.  You already know what happened next.

Car number three was actually a big lifted pickup truck.   I mention that not to feed a stereotype but to suggest that the driver had a pretty good view of the road ahead.  It didn’t matter.  He slammed into car number two at about 35 miles per hour.  It’s a misnomer to say that he pushed her into car number one.  It was more like a smack.  Car parts were flying everywhere.  The three motorists were fine.  So was the dog.

This sort of crash is so common that I’ve even read comments from some DOT officials suggesting that when you come across wildlife in the road you not slow down because it can lead to this sort of thing.  This is backwards, of course, and it makes you wonder how they feel about other things that slow motorists down, you know, things like cyclists.  Car number one wasn’t the problem.  Neither was Fido.  Job one when you’re driving a car is not to run it into other objects, whether moving or stationary.  The epic fail here is on the driver of car three and nobody else.  I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it, but he did do it and it was entirely his fault.

It’s only semantics, but words matter.  If this incident had involved airplanes instead of cars, virtually everyone would call it a crash.  The cause would have been pilot error.  Steps would have been taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

That’s the way we have to start thinking about car crashes.  Most are completely avoidable.  Most can be prevented if we affix the blame where it belongs instead of throwing up our hands and saying “that’s just the way it is.” Many of the 30,000 Americans who will die on our roads this year will die in vain.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  It shouldn’t be this way.  As a cyclist and advocate for cycling, my goal is to do whatever I can to assure that it won’t be this way any longer.

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