Calling a fatal crash “an accident” keeps us from asking why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.


In his 1966 testimony to congress on safety on our nation’s streets and roads, Ralph Nader said,  “A civilized society should want to protect even the nut behind the wheel from paying the ultimate penalty for a moment’s carelessness not to mention protecting the innocent people who get in his way.”

As injuries and deaths on our city, region and country’s roads rise dramatically, his words hold more weight than ever.

On June 17, a beautiful summer Friday night, around 9:00P, three young women aged 29, 27 and 32 were riding bikes separately along the faded bike lanes on South Park Avenue. A Chrysler sedan hit all three of them on both sides of Michigan Ave, as well as two parked cars. One woman, Sara Rogers, died and two are still in the hospital.

It was an accident.

13-year old Marcell Yanders was killed in November. He was walking home from his school (which had not even a crosswalk at any intersection surrounding it) when a truck hit and killed him.

It was an accident.

When 28-year-old Shauntia Dickinson crossed Bailey at Broadway (where the pedestrian light button was broken) and was hit and killed by a car last winter, a hit-and-run that still has no leads today.

It was an accident.

A few weeks ago, Earl McColgin a visually-impaired man, was taking his evening walk with his dog Toby. It was therapeutic for his Parkinson’s disease. As he crossed Utica at Norwood, a speeding car had no regard for the stop sign, and hit Earl, launching him into the intersection and as his head hit the pavement he lost consciousness. He awoke in the hospital where his son told him that Toby was dead.

It was an accident.

And now, just as we post about the death of this young woman on her bike, our comment section is predictably filled with “It was an accident.”

To call all of the events above, and the countless ones happening every day in our region a crash, is to begin to recognize a problem. A problem has solutions. An accident is an isolated incident no one has to take responsibility for. But when it comes to our roads and our cars and our drivers, there’s no such thing as an accident.

Let’s work together to improve safety on our streets. Why are our streets safer for cars than people outside of cars?

– Why don’t we more often consider the safety of those in our city who cannot or choose not to drive (Nearly 30% of households in Buffalo don’t own a personal vehicle)?
– Why did the city offer not a single dollar to fund municipal sidewalk snow removal despite the snowpack last January that put walkers and wheelchair-bound citizens into the street with traffic, despite Rochester and Syracuse doing this themselves already?
– If we admit that some people may lose control of their vehicle, then why don’t we build more streets that better protect people out walking and biking?
– Why do we think cars traveling at 30mph is safe when collisions at that speed statistically kill half the people they hit?
– Why do we build our roads to make drivers feel comfortable doing 40 or 50mph in the middle of our city?
– Why do we like cars in our country that are built larger and larger and larger, to the point where any barely trained teenager can get behind the wheel of a pickup truck with a hood so large that needs a camera view on its dash of what’s in front of the vehicle?
– Why do we not test vehicle safety for surrounding pedestrians the way they do in Europe and Japan?
– Why are local municipalities so slow to build protected bike lanes so that families may ride around safely to where they’re going?
– Why do we all prefer the term accident, to crash?

We can solve these problems through contact with local governments. Let your representatives know what you’d like to see funded. What you’d like to see changed. Or these crashes will continue to pile up, and so will the deaths.