Car Accidents Versus Traffic Violence: Which Language Is More Accurate?
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Car Accidents Versus Traffic Violence: Which Language Is More Accurate?

Destroyed windshield and front part of car after accident.

Despite efforts to reduce traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area, the number of accidents registered in 2019 appears to be about the same as the number in 2018 – evidence that the Vision Zero initiative, aimed at reducing traffic accidents to minimal levels, is not working as expected. Pedestrians were the victims in over 50% of fatal accidents in Los Angeles as of December 2019.

Yet the statistics have spurred an intriguing debate: is the way in which we speak of traffic accidents part of the problem? The word “accident” implies something that couldn’t be avoided. But some observers prefer the term “traffic violence,” especially when the victims are pedestrians or bicyclists hit by cars.

70% of Accidents Occur on 6% of Streets

“Accident” implies a random event. Yet the blunt fact is that 70% of serious and fatal accidents involving cars and pedestrians happen on just 6% of Los Angeles’s streets. This high-incident zone has been dubbed the High-Injury Network. The frequency and prevalence of serious accidents in the High-Injury Zone is not random; it’s predictable and mappable. This is why many observers feel that “accident” doesn’t cover the nature of what is happening.

Some also argue that to refer to car crashes as “accidents” makes it seem as if no one is ever at fault and that nothing can be done to prevent them.

The term “traffic violence” aims to turn the focus on the actions of drivers. The number one culprit in LA accidents is speeding. Some observers quoted in LAist note that speeding and other traffic violations need to be viewed as potentially violent acts – because, in the context of LA’s streets, they are. The shift in emphasis is not unlike what we have seen in regard to driving under the influence, which over the last four decades went from harmless party-related activity to a potentially criminal act with severe penalties.

A Different Perspective on Solutions

“Traffic violence” also shifts the notion of what can be done to prevent traffic incidents. Street design, traffic signals, and other potentially modifiable elements can be addressed to minimize the possibility of traffic violence. A decade ago, for example, the Federal Highway Administration found that HAWK pedestrian beacons can reduce accidents with pedestrians by almost 70%.

Other people, however, take issue with the term “traffic violence,” feeling that it implies that vehicle drivers set out to do violence. This is a crucial point of contention; some feel that a driver whose car hits a pedestrian should not necessarily be accused of an intentional act. Others quoted in LAist, however, say that the actions that led to the accident, such as speeding, were intentional. A choice was made to violate the speed limit. Others widen the scope of intentionality even more broadly, to include the design of city infrastructure that focuses exclusively on the demands of vehicle traffic rather than walkability.

Let a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Help

Whether you use the term “accident” or “traffic violence,” car crashes and pedestrian injuries and deaths continue to be a serious problem in Los Angeles. If you or a loved one has been in a southern California traffic accident, let Ellis Injury Law help you fight for justice. 

Please call today for a free initial appointment to discuss your case with an experienced and compassionate Los Angeles car accident attorney.

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