Whether from Fireworks or DUI, These Deaths Were Not Accidents

One of the saddest incidents this last July 4th concerned a 22-year-old man in Calais, Maine who, while drinking, decided to place a fireworks mortar tube on his head and light it for the amusement of his friends. He died immediately.

drunk-driving-accident-no-accidentWhat makes this senseless death relevant here is that some news outlets placed the account under the headline, “One Dead After Fireworks Accident in Calais.”

Another death, equally senseless, happened in Atlanta the same day. A man ran a red light and crashed into another car, killing the driver. Upon arrest, the driver failed a breath test.

The headline: Driver Arrested after July 4 Accident Kills One.

Accidents? Or dangerous, reckless behavior which was bound to end in disaster?

Quite often we are told of a drunk driving accident that happened on one of our roads. A driver drinks, starts up the car, and causes an “accident.” Except it’s not an accident, any more than the young man with the fireworks died in an accident. When you ignore advice and place yourself and others in danger, the outcome is not accidental.

News organizations and even safety advocates get this wrong a lot. Do some research on the topic and you’ll find plenty of misleading headlines and statements:

  • “Alcohol is a leading cause of road accidents.”
  • “Crash is worst alcohol-related accident in living memory.”
  • “Drunk driving accident causes severe injuries.”
  • “What to Do After a DUI Accident.”

As we’ve noted before, some news outlets have changed, or are considering changing their description from “accident” to “crash” or “collision” to avoid the implication that a death or injury from drunk driving is just a matter of bad luck. It’s not. It’s the result of a thoughtless, foolish and very lethal decision. Yes, alcohol impairs judgment – it was involved  in both these deaths, after all – but we have come a long way since the days when being drunk excused whatever destruction one brought about while under the influence.

Drunk driving is a preventable crime, not the result of fate or a roll of the dice. Letting go of the term “drunk driving accident” is one of the steps we need to take in order to recognize and deal with the crime and those who commit it.