Author Topic: What is an accident?  (Read 11053 times)

Le Poisson

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What is an accident?
« on: September 08, 2015, 12:59:16 PM »
This is a spin off from a thread derailment elsewhere, but I'd like to invite anyone with input to join in...

The comments elsewhere were to do with Car accidents and whether an accident was a preventable but planned for occurance, or pure happenstance. I think the same applies to many other facets of life than just cars, but being a traffic safety guy, I want to start with how we ruin ourselves behind the wheel, and then move on to how our financial and personal lives can be scarily similar.

I'll post this, redirect the other convo here, then come back and expand the ideas... BRB.

Le Poisson

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2015, 01:23:30 PM »
OK, I’m back. Hope no one missed me

Starting with traffic accidents… in engineerspeak, there is no such thing as an accident. In other words, whenever a vehicle crashes, there is an identifiable cascade of decisions that lead to the crash. A scenario posted in the other thread was “So it wasn’t an accident when my Dad’s mechanic didn’t repair his brakes right?” (My paraphrase)

The short answer is – no, it wasn’t. First, the mechanic erred which caused the loss of control, then the father didn’t put the car in neutral and either swerve or apply the parking brake fast enough to prevent the crash. Or maybe he didn’t leave enough room to provide a safety envelope against a mechanical failure. Or maybe the road design wasn’t forgiving enough to allow an escape route along a median or shoulder. Or maybe… I could go on.

The fact is that there is a cascade here that points to ‘human’ error right from before the car started moving until it crashed. It is a trail of decisions that is as real as the outcome itself, only the outcome of a crash is far more sensational than “man gently presses properly repaired brake pedal and uses safety envelope so that no chance of crash occurs.” Which is in fact what happens most of the time.

FWIW – here is a diagram showing collision factors from 2007 – 2010. The black circle is where police didn’t assign a factor.



Now lets talk money.

How big is your safety envelope? How is it that folks on this forum recognize that tailgating bankruptcy is akin to tailgating logging truck in a yugo with faulty brakes and no windshield? Who is your mechanic? Will you blame your banker or financial advisor when your crash happens? Will that take the injury out of the crash? Is the financial vehicle you use as fit for the rough roads as your real car? Is its cargo safe? I love where this is going, but I’m stopping short since the parallels of reckless driving and reckless spending are just too good to keep preaching on.

Back to cars.

Today I came back to work after a week of vacation. My inbox had the details of a father and son who were headed home from a night of drinking on the weekend and missed a corner. The car was speeding when they were ejected and now the world is less two souls. Or it will be shortly. One is on life support, but the prognosis is poor. Tomorrow I get to go out to the scene and compile a set of data points putting together the events that lead to this ‘accident.’ There is nothing accidental about this. Choices were made to not wear seatbelts, to go drinking, to speed.

Be careful out there – its hard to say who will be affected by your choices, and you won’t just be taking yourself down if you engineer an accident. The ones you love most will be the ones who go down with you.

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2015, 01:56:16 PM »
Yeah if you want to ignore the commonly held definition of words, anything is up for grabs. 

Chris22

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2015, 02:09:42 PM »
Well, the basic meaning of the word "accident" is, plainly, "the opposite of on purpose", correct?  So if you didn't MEAN to run into the car in front of you, but did anyways because you were texting, it's still an accident.

That's why the military likes to use the word "mishap", which still denotes "a bad thing not done on purpose", but doesn't have the connotation of lack of fault. 

Le Poisson

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2015, 02:17:59 PM »
So using this logic, I never planned on going bankrupt and its not my fault the roof is leaking, so I'm poor by accident, right?

Engineers call an 'accident' a collision or a crash because that's the end result. Accident implies a lack of responsibility and an element of unavoidability that just isn't there.

Sailor Sam

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2015, 02:42:43 PM »
Also in the military, working in the small boat community. I used to be operational, but I now dwell in the Safety & Environmental cube-warren. This stuff is now my life, and your venn diagram made me happy.

Are you asking if moustachians, who can easily see that 'accidental' bankruptcies were actually avoidable, can extrapolate that to other aspects of life like driving?  My answer is: possibly, but probably not spontaneously. Lots of us are office workers, who don't have the hardcore accident prevention training a factory worker is now exposed to. Plus there is generally some pushback when people are first introduced to all accidents being essentially preventable. I was skeptical when first trained, and now I see it on the face of the people I train.

Sad about the father and son. A friend of mine just finished recovering the body of a drowned child. Her parents chose not put her in a lifejacket  while out boating.   
« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 02:45:39 PM by Sailor Sam »

Travis

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2015, 02:44:14 PM »
I'm partly responsible for said thread derailment and it was making this point: there is such a thing as an accident, but it's important to clarify when it happened due to not doing the right thing.  The example I brought up was that unintended discharge of a firearm in the military is called a "negligent discharge" rather than an accident because if you followed all the steps of proper weapons handling you wouldn't have fired the weapon.  Someone responded whether running into a door was "negligence" because said action was unintended, but they weren't paying attention to whether the door was open.  I didn't want to further derail the discussion by going deeper, but in my example "negligence" was used because 1) an accident doesn't always assign fault and 2) negligence implies consequences must result. 

If you bump your head because you weren't paying attention nobody cares.  If you crash your car and cause property damage or fire a gun in a crowded area you just upped the ante and a different word might be appropriate.  In a vehicle "accident," a third party is likely to have to pay some money whether that be a private citizen, business entity, or insurance company.  Part of determining who is responsible for paying that money includes assigning fault. Is it possible that a collision happens due to no fault of a particular person? Sure. I hate speaking in absolutes.  Someone in the know can clarify for me, but I suspect the majority of said incidents involve one or more people making a decision that in some capacity contributed to the incident.  In my example I didn't mean to fire my gun and think I can call it an accident, but because I made the conscious decision to put my finger on the trigger and apply pressure when I didn't intend to fire despite the training I've had I was breaking a rule and was therefore directly at fault.  The collision might not have been intentional (if it was we're talking some kind of assault charge), but the decisions that led to the collision might have been and that distinction needs to be made.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 02:46:53 PM by Travis »

GuitarStv

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2015, 02:50:26 PM »
Well, the basic meaning of the word "accident" is, plainly, "the opposite of on purpose", correct?  So if you didn't MEAN to run into the car in front of you, but did anyways because you were texting, it's still an accident.

I have serious problem with viewing negligence as equivalent to accident.  If I start windmilling my arms and run in your direction with my eyes closed, when my fists hit you is that really accidental?  At a certain point someone ought to know that their behaviour is going to cause a problem.

Maybe a good parallel would be drunk driving.  Killing a family because you thought driving dunk would be fun is not an accident.  The severity of the incident might have been surprising, but not that there would be an incident eventually.

Gone Fishing

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2015, 02:57:27 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then it would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

I always make my children wear their bike helmets, life jackets, and seatbelts because they are "cheap insurance".

Style counts, too.  I'm pretty sure if everyone riding in a car wore helmets, we could significantly reduce both the incidence and severity of head injuries, but I haven't seen anyone wearing one. 
« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 03:13:55 PM by So Close »

GuitarStv

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2015, 03:08:21 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then is would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

Ballsy argument . . . You don't often hear people going with "your life just isn't worth enough to protect" all that often.  :P

Travis

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2015, 03:08:59 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then is would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

I always make my children wear their bike helmets, life jackets, and seatbelts because they are "cheap insurance".

Style counts, too.  I'm pretty sure if everyone riding in a car wore helmets, we could significantly reduce both the incidence and severity of head injuries, but I haven't seen anyone wearing one.

Risk tolerance is a big factor in how often an incident is going to occur and severe it will be when it happens.  The insurance industry rates your premiums in part on complex modeling and statistics of how likely you are to be involved in a particular incident.  They give you discounts for adding layers of security or mitigation.  My job in the Army is in the communications field and we have to decide whether setting up an antenna in a storm for a unit to talk is worth getting hit by lightning.  I have no control over the lightning strike, but I made a decision weighing military necessity with safety.  On the IT side I can design a computer network that is insanely difficult for an enemy to hack into, but in doing so make it prohibitively difficult for the user to function.  There is also a monetary cost with doing so.  In a factory the owner must weigh worker safety with turning a product in a timely and cost-effective manner.  I'm sure he has someone on staff who ran the numbers on the likelihood of an injury occurring and how much it would cost him in insurance premiums, payouts, and lawsuits.  At the personal level it can be as simple as asking yourself "It's snowing outside, do I really need to drive out there for milk today?"

Travis

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2015, 03:11:36 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then is would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

Ballsy argument . . . You don't often hear people going with "your life just isn't worth enough to protect" all that often.  :P

Happens in my line of work all the time, lol.  How much does the government spend surrounding me in armor vs restricting me from effectively doing my job?  They could probably find a way to do it, but it would cost so much they could only afford to do it for X number of troops before they ran out of money.

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2015, 04:02:54 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then is would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

Ballsy argument . . . You don't often hear people going with "your life just isn't worth enough to protect" all that often.  :P

Happens in my line of work all the time, lol.  How much does the government spend surrounding me in armor vs restricting me from effectively doing my job?  They could probably find a way to do it, but it would cost so much they could only afford to do it for X number of troops before they ran out of money.

Most economic decisions come down to putting some value on a life.  We can require everyone to drive at 10 mph, and it will save lives.  Why don't we do this if we value lives above all else?

Well, the basic meaning of the word "accident" is, plainly, "the opposite of on purpose", correct?  So if you didn't MEAN to run into the car in front of you, but did anyways because you were texting, it's still an accident.

I have serious problem with viewing negligence as equivalent to accident.  If I start windmilling my arms and run in your direction with my eyes closed, when my fists hit you is that really accidental?  At a certain point someone ought to know that their behaviour is going to cause a problem.

Maybe a good parallel would be drunk driving.  Killing a family because you thought driving dunk would be fun is not an accident.  The severity of the incident might have been surprising, but not that there would be an incident eventually.

They are not mutually exclusive.  Some accidents can be caused by negligence.  That doesn't mean they are intentional.

GuitarStv

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2015, 04:23:32 PM »
Intent can't really be proven conclusively.  At best you're guessing as to the intent of the actor.  Maybe I intended to show off my great knife skills by doing a trick and stopping an inch from the belly of the dude who was sleeping with my wife.  I guess his stabbing was entirely accidental when things backfired.  This would probably make all murders accidents based on the testimony of the perpetrator.

Le Poisson

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2015, 04:56:52 PM »
Can all "accidents" be prevented, sure. But as an economist, I have to ask, at what cost? If safety's first, then is would be safer not to do anything. Like Mike Rowe says, "safety's second".

Ballsy argument . . . You don't often hear people going with "your life just isn't worth enough to protect" all that often.  :P

Actually all of the civil/structural engineering field is based on this. When people call in asking "How many lives have to be lost before..." I start calculating the safety improvement costs versus risk in my head and can come up with a number pretty quick, then I bite my tongue.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 05:00:35 PM by Prospector »

SnackDog

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2015, 04:58:08 PM »
I prefer to call them "incidents" rather than accidents.  Incidents does not imply any intent or surprise at the result. 

All incidents are preventable. Some are planned and intentional, others are a complete surprise and many fall in between.  There is no such thing as "happenstance" except for a once in a millennium unpredictable act of god, like a meteor striking the earth (although some people think these can be predicted and potentially even prevented).

wordnerd

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2015, 05:16:29 PM »
Public health and safety people love--and get very self-righteous about--not using the word accident and using crash instead. Crash is fine, but, accident is usually accurate also. Accident implies lack of intent, not that the incident was unpreventable. Sure, the phrase "accidents happen" is common, the word itself does not connote inevitability.

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2015, 08:12:54 PM »
Intent can't really be proven conclusively.  At best you're guessing as to the intent of the actor.  Maybe I intended to show off my great knife skills by doing a trick and stopping an inch from the belly of the dude who was sleeping with my wife.  I guess his stabbing was entirely accidental when things backfired.  This would probably make all murders accidents based on the testimony of the perpetrator.

You act like this is some new field of philosophy rather than something courts deal with on a daily basis.  Read some law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

None of that legal mumbojumbo changes the fact that something is an accident if you didn't intend the result.

Le Poisson

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2015, 05:04:15 AM »
Intent can't really be proven conclusively.  At best you're guessing as to the intent of the actor.  Maybe I intended to show off my great knife skills by doing a trick and stopping an inch from the belly of the dude who was sleeping with my wife.  I guess his stabbing was entirely accidental when things backfired.  This would probably make all murders accidents based on the testimony of the perpetrator.

You act like this is some new field of philosophy rather than something courts deal with on a daily basis.  Read some law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

None of that legal mumbojumbo changes the fact that something is an accident if you didn't intend the result.

You can't quote criminal law and omit the civil side, which is where we find negligence and responsibility for individual actions regardless of intent. I am sure that the guy who mopped the floor had no intent to harm the next person who slipped and fell on it, but his action lead to the damages.

Flyingkea

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2015, 05:16:17 AM »
Aviation has a pretty standard defintion across th e industry
Quote
What is an Accident or Incident?

The word Occurrence is used to mean any accident or incident.

The following definitions of  Accidents and Incidents are from the Civil Aviation Act 1990:

Accident – means an occurrence that is associated with the operation of an aircraft and takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and such time as all such persons have disembarked and the engine or any propellers or rotors come to rest, being an occurrence in which —

a person is fatally or seriously injured as a result of —
i.     being in the aircraft; or

ii.    direct contact with any part of the aircraft, including any part that has become detached from the aircraft; or

iii.   direct exposure to jet blast —

except when the injuries are self-inflicted or inflicted by other persons, or when the injuries are to stowaways hiding outside the areas normally available to passengers and crew; or

the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure that —
i.     adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft; and

ii.    would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component —

except engine failure or damage that is limited to the engine, its cowlings, or accessories, or damage limited to propellers, wing tips, rotors, antennas, tyres, brakes, fairings, small dents, or puncture holes in the aircraft skin; or

the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible.
Incident – means any occurrence, other than an accident, that is associated with the operation of an aircraft and affects, or could affect, the safety of operation.

So if someone is hurt, or the aircraf is damaged, it's an accident.

Chris22

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2015, 01:49:14 PM »
Well, the basic meaning of the word "accident" is, plainly, "the opposite of on purpose", correct?  So if you didn't MEAN to run into the car in front of you, but did anyways because you were texting, it's still an accident.

I have serious problem with viewing negligence as equivalent to accident.  If I start windmilling my arms and run in your direction with my eyes closed, when my fists hit you is that really accidental?  At a certain point someone ought to know that their behaviour is going to cause a problem.

Which, uh, was my point in the second line that you omitted, that what we call an "accident" really should be called a "mishap". 

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2015, 01:52:45 PM »
Intent can't really be proven conclusively.  At best you're guessing as to the intent of the actor.  Maybe I intended to show off my great knife skills by doing a trick and stopping an inch from the belly of the dude who was sleeping with my wife.  I guess his stabbing was entirely accidental when things backfired.  This would probably make all murders accidents based on the testimony of the perpetrator.

You act like this is some new field of philosophy rather than something courts deal with on a daily basis.  Read some law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

None of that legal mumbojumbo changes the fact that something is an accident if you didn't intend the result.

You can't quote criminal law and omit the civil side, which is where we find negligence and responsibility for individual actions regardless of intent. I am sure that the guy who mopped the floor had no intent to harm the next person who slipped and fell on it, but his action lead to the damages.

Uh, did I say negligence doesn't lead to damages?  No.  My position is that the slip was an accident.  Intent is certainly a factor on the "civil side" as well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_tort

Cathy

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2015, 06:03:15 PM »
Intent can't really be proven conclusively.  At best you're guessing as to the intent of the actor.  Maybe I intended to show off my great knife skills by doing a trick and stopping an inch from the belly of the dude who was sleeping with my wife.  ...

The exact rules vary by jurisdiction, so to make things concrete, I will use the law of California as an example. Let's consider the question of whether GuitarStv would be guilty of assault in California on these hypothetical facts.

In California, the mens rea for assault "does not require a specific intent to injure the victim". People v. Williams, 26 Cal4th 779, 788 (Ca Sup Ct 2001). Rather, the key question is whether the defendant has "actual knowledge of the facts sufficient to establish that the defendant's act by its nature will probably and directly result in injury to another" (emphasis added). Id., 26 Cal4th at 782. In other words, the key questions for mens rea are whether (1) the defendant's actions were of such a nature so as to "probably" result in injury to the victim, and (2) if so, whether the defendant was aware that his actions were of that nature.

The exact details of GuitarStv's "knife ... trick" have not been specified but if it involves rapidly wieldy a knife toward the victim and only intending to stop right before collision, a prosecutor might be able to convince a jury that such an act would "probably" result in injury, and that GuitarStv would have been aware of that, given the patently dangerous nature of the activity. Or maybe not. It would depend on all the facts. In any event, GuitarStv's specific intent is not relevant to the question of whether his actions were assault.

California also has a statute that arguably provides a separate defence of "accident". Cal Penal Code § 26. However, various lower courts in California have held that, notwithstanding its arguable statutory basis as separate defence, "accident" is not really a defence but merely amounts to a claim that the prosecution has not proved the necessary mens rea. See various citations in People v. Anderson, 51 Cal4th 989 (Ca Sup Ct 2001). The Supreme Court of California has not expressed an explicit view on whether "accident" as a defence amounts to anything more than an argument that the prosecution has not proved mena rea, although in Anderson, they appeared to be sceptical of the existence of a separate "accident" defence.

(Note: I do not discuss any other possible crimes that might arise on the above hypothetical facts.)
« Last Edit: September 09, 2015, 07:03:16 PM by Cathy »

Bob W

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2015, 10:16:42 AM »
Accident is a rarely used term around here?  We call them car wrecks or just wrecks.   Must be a regional thing?  Pretty much everyone assumes there is someone or something at fault. 

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2015, 11:57:59 AM »
Accident is a rarely used term around here?  We call them car wrecks or just wrecks.   Must be a regional thing?  Pretty much everyone assumes there is someone or something at fault.

Just as people have a problem with "accident" because it implies something (debated here), "wreck" implies that a car was actually wrecked.  Some are just mildly damaged.

BlueMR2

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2015, 10:30:36 AM »
I prefer to call them "incidents" rather than accidents.  Incidents does not imply any intent or surprise at the result. 

All incidents are preventable. Some are planned and intentional, others are a complete surprise and many fall in between.  There is no such thing as "happenstance" except for a once in a millennium unpredictable act of god, like a meteor striking the earth (although some people think these can be predicted and potentially even prevented).

Since they are all technically preventable, they really should be classified under "negligence"...  However, today's corrupt court system has taken negligence judgments to the extreme, it'd be a disaster if we called it what it actually is!  :-)

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2015, 12:10:41 PM »
I prefer to call them "incidents" rather than accidents.  Incidents does not imply any intent or surprise at the result. 

All incidents are preventable. Some are planned and intentional, others are a complete surprise and many fall in between.  There is no such thing as "happenstance" except for a once in a millennium unpredictable act of god, like a meteor striking the earth (although some people think these can be predicted and potentially even prevented).

Since they are all technically preventable, they really should be classified under "negligence"...  However, today's corrupt court system has taken negligence judgments to the extreme, it'd be a disaster if we called it what it actually is!  :-)

Where are we Getting the rule that accidents can't be preventable?  Almost everything is preventable

BlueMR2

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2015, 06:19:50 PM »
Where are we Getting the rule that accidents can't be preventable?  Almost everything is preventable

In common usage these days, "accident" means that nobody is at fault and that it "just happened"/could not be prevented.  See any number of insurance commercials where car crashes are never the fault of the person causing them because "it's something that happens to everybody"...  :-)

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2015, 08:21:24 PM »
Where are we Getting the rule that accidents can't be preventable?  Almost everything is preventable

In common usage these days, "accident" means that nobody is at fault and that it "just happened"/could not be prevented.  See any number of insurance commercials where car crashes are never the fault of the person causing them because "it's something that happens to everybody"...  :-)

I completely disagree that common usage implies no fault.  If I say I accidentally dropped your new case, I'm not saying it wasn't my fault, just that I didn't mean to do it.  Seriously who are you people hanging out with?

scrubbyfish

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #29 on: September 13, 2015, 04:50:13 AM »
Happy to see this conversation, because I'm geeky :)

I am fussy about differentiating, as much as possible, between "accident" and "collision". For most contact between two vehicles, I use the word collision. I don't think of it as an accident if I was driving 40km/hr over the speed limit, for example. That seems like too close to "on purpose". Of course, most of the time people driving way over the speed limit aren't actually aiming for a collision, but actively disregarding the effects of curves, surprise boulders, etc, seems to put it outside of "accident".

I had a friend that had a lot of collisions (with other cars, trees, posts). It was hard to continue seeing them as accidents; I think he had a death wish. Yet as far as I know, his license was never revoked for dangerous driving.

Flyingkea

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #30 on: September 13, 2015, 05:20:50 AM »
Happy to see this conversation, because I'm geeky :)

I am fussy about differentiating, as much as possible, between "accident" and "collision". For most contact between two vehicles, I use the word collision. I don't think of it as an accident if I was driving 40km/hr over the speed limit, for example. That seems like too close to "on purpose". Of course, most of the time people driving way over the speed limit aren't actually aiming for a collision, but actively disregarding the effects of curves, surprise boulders, etc, seems to put it outside of "accident".

I had a friend that had a lot of collisions (with other cars, trees, posts). It was hard to continue seeing them as accidents; I think he had a death wish. Yet as far as I know, his license was never revoked for dangerous driving.
Heh, not all accidents are collisions, and not all collisions are accidents.
In my line of work we run on the 'swiss cheese' model of accidents. An accident occurs when the all the holes line up. Say bad weather, pilot whose not particularly current, has a deadline to meet, - those would all be holes in the cheese. The pilot then decides to turn back, or land and wait out the weather will break the chain and prevent an accident. (the other metaphor we often use is a chain)

Le Poisson

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #31 on: September 13, 2015, 07:33:59 AM »
Happy to see this conversation, because I'm geeky :)

I am fussy about differentiating, as much as possible, between "accident" and "collision". For most contact between two vehicles, I use the word collision. I don't think of it as an accident if I was driving 40km/hr over the speed limit, for example. That seems like too close to "on purpose". Of course, most of the time people driving way over the speed limit aren't actually aiming for a collision, but actively disregarding the effects of curves, surprise boulders, etc, seems to put it outside of "accident".

I had a friend that had a lot of collisions (with other cars, trees, posts). It was hard to continue seeing them as accidents; I think he had a death wish. Yet as far as I know, his license was never revoked for dangerous driving.
Heh, not all accidents are collisions, and not all collisions are accidents.
In my line of work we run on the 'swiss cheese' model of accidents. An accident occurs when the all the holes line up. Say bad weather, pilot whose not particularly current, has a deadline to meet, - those would all be holes in the cheese. The pilot then decides to turn back, or land and wait out the weather will break the chain and prevent an accident. (the other metaphor we often use is a chain)



I also see the cumulative failure model as being worthwhile...

Jim Wakes up late <start chain>
Jim gets into his car with bald tires due to financial mismanagement <Failure 2>
He speeds to get to work on time due to an unforgiving corporate culture <Failure 3>
Jim accellerates to run an amber light <Decision point>
A car turns in front of him <Failure 4>
Jim's car slides on the wet asphalt, crashing into pole. <Outcome>

Police writeup states other driver turned on amber causing crash - Jim carries no fault.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 07:39:53 AM by Prospector »

Cathy

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #32 on: September 13, 2015, 12:36:17 PM »
...Of course, most of the time people driving way over the speed limit aren't actually aiming for a collision, but actively disregarding the effects of curves, surprise boulders, etc, seems to put it outside of "accident"....

There are terms in common use to express the differences between these mental states. Actively disregarding the risks is basically the difference between "reckless" and "negligent". If the mental state goes beyond a disregard of risk and actually includes an awareness that a crash will occur, that is the difference between "knowing" and "reckless". If the mental state includes a specific intent to cause a crash, that is the difference between "purposeful" and "knowing".

The term "accident" mostly exists outside of this framework. The dispute in this thread seems to be over what level of mental state is being negated by the term "accident". Here are the positions that have been taken by the various posters in this thread, ordered by least rigorous mental state required for "not an accident" to most rigorous mental state required:

  • The OP says that "there is no such thing as an accident".
  • BlueMR2 and GuitarStv say that negligence means that something is not an "accident".
  • scubbyfish appears to say that recklessness means that something is "not an accident", but she implicitly seems to accept that mere negligence does not negate the status of something as an "accident" (because of how she focuses on the effect of "actively disregarding" risk).
  • Chris22 and dragoncar say that only purposefulness or specific intent to achieve the results of the conduct means that something is not an "accident".

So what is the conclusion here? One conclusion is that "accident" is an imprecise term. If you want to convey a particular mental state, there are more specific words for that. However, "accident" is still an English word, and it's a valid inquiry to ask "what does it mean?". Most of the replies so far do not actually provide any reasoning for why "accident" should have the meaning they prefer, other than BlueMR2 and dragoncar, who appeal to common use (a valid argument) but allege different common usages. This is an empirical question that could be resolved through research into how the word is used in literature. However, I think this topic shows that if you want to be understood by all, "accident" is probably not a good word to use.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 01:11:04 PM by Cathy »

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #33 on: September 13, 2015, 02:39:26 PM »
Fine, Cathy want's an authority.  Fair enough, I honestly didn't think my assertion would be disputed.

Google definition:

ac·ci·dent
ˈaksədənt/
noun
1.
an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
"he had an accident at the factory"
synonyms:   mishap, misadventure, unfortunate incident, mischance, misfortune, disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, calamity; technicalcasualty
"an accident at work"
2.
an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.
"the pregnancy was an accident"
synonyms:   (mere) chance, coincidence, twist of fate, freak; More

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #34 on: September 13, 2015, 02:48:52 PM »
So what is the conclusion here?

On these topics, I never need/seek one. I just enjoy the conversation, and the floating of various ideas and thoughts. I love being among others who care enough about language and meaning to converse about possibilities. Good stuff!

Cathy

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #35 on: September 13, 2015, 02:53:54 PM »
Fine, Cathy want's an authority.  Fair enough, I honestly didn't think my assertion would be disputed.

Google definition:

ac·ci·dent
ˈaksədənt/
noun
1.
an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
"he had an accident at the factory"
synonyms:   mishap, misadventure, unfortunate incident, mischance, misfortune, disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, calamity; technicalcasualty
"an accident at work"
2.
an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.
"the pregnancy was an accident"
synonyms:   (mere) chance, coincidence, twist of fate, freak; More

I agree with you that the second definition here requires specific intent to negate an "accident" because the test is disjunctive: it's enough for the purported accident to either be without deliberate cause or without apparent cause.

The meaning of the first definition is debatable though. The first definition is conjunctive and the purported accident must happen both "unintentionally" and "unexpectedly". This seems to imply that if the purported accident was not surprising, then it was not an accident. To use scrubbyfish's example, if you are driving way over the speed limit, a crash may not have been specifically intended, but it also isn't "unexpected" ("not ... regarded as likely to happen", according to Google). Depending on how "unexpected" is interpreted, this first definition suggests that either "reckless" or "knowing" mental state is sufficient to negate "accident" under this definition, but regardless of which it is, it's something less than specific intent.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 03:13:14 PM by Cathy »

dragoncar

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #36 on: September 14, 2015, 12:18:20 PM »
Fine, Cathy want's an authority.  Fair enough, I honestly didn't think my assertion would be disputed.

Google definition:

ac·ci·dent
ˈaksədənt/
noun
1.
an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
"he had an accident at the factory"
synonyms:   mishap, misadventure, unfortunate incident, mischance, misfortune, disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, calamity; technicalcasualty
"an accident at work"
2.
an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.
"the pregnancy was an accident"
synonyms:   (mere) chance, coincidence, twist of fate, freak; More

I agree with you that the second definition here requires specific intent to negate an "accident" because the test is disjunctive: it's enough for the purported accident to either be without deliberate cause or without apparent cause.

The meaning of the first definition is debatable though. The first definition is conjunctive and the purported accident must happen both "unintentionally" and "unexpectedly". This seems to imply that if the purported accident was not surprising, then it was not an accident. To use scrubbyfish's example, if you are driving way over the speed limit, a crash may not have been specifically intended, but it also isn't "unexpected" ("not ... regarded as likely to happen", according to Google). Depending on how "unexpected" is interpreted, this first definition suggests that either "reckless" or "knowing" mental state is sufficient to negate "accident" under this definition, but regardless of which it is, it's something less than specific intent.

This isn't a legal dictionary, so I interpret unexpected as "subjectively unexpected" rather than some reasonable person standard for foreseeability.

If you unreasonably think you are the greatest driver on earth and cruise the freeway at 120mph but fully expect that your perceived skills will protect you, a collision would be accidental.

But yes, let's say I call you in the car and tell you to speed up to 120mph or I'll kill your family.  You, traveling at 120mph, expect to hit something, but have no intention of doing so.  That wouldn't be an accident despite your lack of specific intent.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 12:23:13 PM by dragoncar »

lewisahmed

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Re: What is an accident?
« Reply #37 on: September 25, 2015, 12:41:15 AM »
Accident iss "an unexpected and undesirable event, a mishap unforeseen and without apparent cause." Strictly speaking, most accidents are not accidents at all: they are collisions that could and should have been avoided. So, what causes them, and how can you avoid them?

Four factors contribute to the vast majority of collisions. In ascending order they are:

    Equipment Failure
    Roadway Design
    Poor Roadway Maintenance
    Driver Behavior