Nautilus

How Language Helps Erase the Tragedy of Millions of Road Deaths

In the first decades of the 20th century, people around the world began succumbing to an entirely new cause of mortality. These new deaths, due to the dangers of the automobile, soon became accepted as a lamentable but normal part of modern life. A hundred years later, with 1.25 million people worldwide (about 30,000 in the U.S.) being killed every year in road crashes, there’s now an effort to reject the perception that these deaths are normal or acceptable.

As reported in a recent New York Times article, a growing number of safety advocates, government officials, and journalists are moving away from the phrase “car accident” on the grounds that it presumes that the drivers involved are blameless—a presumption that is correct only 6 percent of the time, according to a report by the U.S. Department

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