Road accidents? Let's call them crashes
Johnny Balasa. Almarie Camson. Tado Jimenez. Carmelo Calatcat. They are just four of the countless people who have been hurt or have died in road crashes on Philippine streets.
On April 3, Johnny was pedaling his bicycle on Road 10 in Tondo, Manila, when he was struck by two wheels that came off a trailer truck. He died in the crash. Almarie’s right arm was cut off when a Southern Carrier bus flipped on its side on the South Luzon Expressway on March 24; at least 45 people were injured in the crash. Tado, and 14 other passengers, died last February when the GV Florida bus they were riding plunged into a ravine in Bontoc; 32 people were hurt in the crash. Carmelo was the driver of the Don Mariano bus that crashed off the Skyway in December 2013. He and 18 passengers perished in the crash.
Johnny, Almarie, Tado, and Carmelo represent just the tip of the iceberg. In 2013, 38 people were injured in road crashes every day, according to the Online National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The figure is based on reports from a mere 3.7% of the total number of hospitals in the country.
Road “accidents” make the headlines almost daily. At the heart of the problem is the word “accident.” It is an inaccurate word to describe road injuries or deaths. When we use “accident,” we are describing the injuries or deaths resulting from road crashes as unfortunate, unexpected, and unintentional.
Indeed, “it was an accident” is the common refrain of the driver involved in the crash, the lawyer representing the bus company, or the owner of the bus company. By using the word “accident,” these people claim that the incidents resulted from bad luck; they could not have been foreseen; and no one is at fault.
But wait a minute! Can no one be held accountable for the road crashes that maimed Almarie, killed Johnny, Tado and Carmelo, injured and took the lives of many others, and left many bereaved families? Did the road crash victims just have the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Were the crashes random events?
Let’s examine the facts:
- Someone failed to ensure that the two tires that hit Johnny were securely fastened to the truck.
- The Southern Carrier bus turned on its side because two of its tires came off.
- Said bus firm was operating despite the expiry of its franchise in 2008.
- Faulty brakes led to the crash involving the GV Florida bus.
- Said bus was not approved for use as a public utility vehicle.
- The tires of the Don Mariano bus were worn-out. No wonder the driver lost control of the bus; it skidded on the wet road before it crashed off the Skyway.
- The driver of said bus was overspeeding. Manuel Bonoan, president and chief executive officer of Skyway O&M Corporation, estimated that the bus was traveling at “a little over 100 kilometers per hour (kph).” On the Skyway, the maximum speed limit for buses is 80 kph.
- The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) lacks the staff needed to inspect all the public utility vehicles in the country.
In a nutshell, these road crashes resulted from “choices made and risks disregarded.” Someone – perhaps a bus driver, the owner of the bus company, or an LTFRB inspector – made choices that compromised the safety of the vehicles. Because these choices resulted in road crashes, calling them “accidents” is inappropriate.
What’s wrong with “accident”? It belongs to “a language of neglect and denial,” says RoadPeace. Since 1992, the British group has been calling on the media and policy makers to stop using the word “accident” when referring to road crashes.
Instead, RoadPeace advocates for the adoption of words such as “crash” or “collision” because they are “appropriate, constructive, and accurate.” RoadPeace cites the benefits of using “crash” in this statement. Here’s a summary:
|"Crash" or "collision"||"Accident"|
Has a cause and can be prevented.
Has an excuse embedded within it.
Does not presume innocence or guilt.
Implies that no one is at fault.
Worsens the suffering of the injured or the bereaved.
Is offensive to those who have been severely injured or bereaved by a reckless driver. The word downplays the seriousness of the road injury or death.
Words matter. If we keep using “accident,” then we’ll continue to accept excuses for thousands of preventable road injuries and deaths per year. In contrast, if we adopt “crash” or “collision,” then we’ll promote accountability. Then we can look for causes and solutions that will make our streets safer.
It’s high time we stopped using the word “accident” to describe road injuries or deaths. Let’s use “crash” or “collision” instead. Let’s take this small yet significant step to ensure that there will be no more Johnnies, Almaries, Tados, and Carmelos. – Rappler.com
Dinna Louise C. Dayao (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an experienced writer and editor. She organized the Change.org petition asking President Aquino to require all public officials to take public transit at least once a month.
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