If you’ve read BikePortland for a while, you know that we are serious about language and word choice. Way back in 2006 we were one of the first outlets to cover the idea that the way we talk about traffic crashes in America is deeply problematic. Since then, the “crash not accident” movement has grown considerably.
The latest step forward on the march toward making “crash” mainstream is a bill in the Oregon Legislature that seeks to rewrite over 100 existing laws. House Bill 3374 would replace all references to “vehicle accident” and “vehicle collision” in the Oregon Revised Statutes and two sections of Oregon Administrative Rules with “vehicle crash.”
The bill is sponsored by House Representative Jeff Helfrich, a Republican who represents the district (52) that covers Hood River, east Multnomah County, Sandy, and Government Camp. Rep. Helfrich lives in Hood River and is a 25-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau.
Helfrich’s Chief of Staff Natalie Newgard said the bill was introduced on behalf of former House Rep. Ron Noble. Noble is a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII and this bill is one of their priorities.
The bill hasn’t been assigned to a committee yet and is still awaiting a public hearing. It should have broad support among transportation safety advocates, many of whom believe that using the term “accident” implies a collision was unavoidable.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program wrote in an email newsletter today that using the term “accident” does not align with their goal of making streets safe. “When we use the word ‘accident’ rather than ‘crash,’ we’re implying that a collision was somehow inevitable. We’re not only absolving the person driving from responsibility but also the local transportation agency,” they wrote in the newsletter. “PBOT has strategic commitments to realize Vision Zero … part of [that] strategy is reminding ourselves and our communities that crashes are preventable and predictable.”
We’ll monitor the bill and keep you posted on any developments.