Family advocates to stop referring deadly car crashes as ‘accidents’ after daughter’s death

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NEW YORK — The parents who lost their 3-year-old daughter in a car crash are renewing the push in New York to stop people from referring deadly collisions as mere “accidents.”

The word accident is defined in the Merriam Webster’s dictionary as an unforeseen and unplanned event, with lack of intention, even an unexpected happening causing loss or injury not due to any fault. The word and the use of it carries significant weight for the Liao family. It is a word they don’t want used when describing what happened to their 3-year-old daughter.

In October 2013, Allie Liao was killed by a distracted driver as she was crossing the street with her grandmother.

Liao’s father described in a touching and emotional article why he and his wife are part of a renewed push to change the language here in New York to call traffic collisions resulting in the death of innocent pedestrians a crash and not an accident.

“It makes a big difference to me. As a mother who has lost their 3-year-old it is the beginning of changing our culture,” mother Amy Tam-Liao told PIX11 News.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan already took steps to implement the language change by saying the city cannot regard traffic crashes as mere “accidents.” This falls in line with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recommendations first made back in 1997. In information first published then, the agency said:

“Motor vehicle crashes and injuries are predictable, preventable events. Continued use of the word “accident” promotes the concept that these events are outside of human influence or control. In fact, they are predictable results of specific actions. Since we can identify the causes of crashes, we can take action to alter the effect, and avoid collisions.”

New York state, however, has not made the same move as the rest of the city. Groups like Transportation Alternatives believes it’s time they did.

“Crash is a neutral word. It doesn’t place blame. It doesn’t assume what happened. Accident is biased. It takes all the responsibility away from anyone at a crash scene,” Caroline Samponaro, the Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives, said.

Samponaro and the Liao family do not believe this is mere semantics. Instead, they believe the change in language will eventually result in a change in culture. The hope is that it may create even a few more responsible drivers.

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