Lake Villa, IL – In a groundbreaking move, Illinois has officially replaced the term “accident” with “crash” in its statutes relating to automobiles, motor vehicles, and traffic incidents. The change, signed into law on July 1, 2023, aims to highlight the fact that not all crashes are accidental and to emphasize the responsibility and accountability of drivers.
The legislation, House Bill 5496, now Public Act 102-982, was spearheaded by State Representative Tom Weber (R- Lake Villa). Inspired by the advocacy of Sheila Lockwood, whose son was tragically killed by a drunk driver, Rep. Weber saw the need for a language shift that accurately reflects the nature of vehicular incidents.
“Words matter in the law, and these words mattered to the victims,” said Rep. Weber. “Calling such incidents accidents removes accountability when it often comes down to human error or negligence. By using the term ‘crash,’ we hope to remind drivers of their responsibility and encourage safer behavior on the roads.”
Sheila Lockwood, who tirelessly fought for justice and change following her son’s death, emphasized the importance of this language shift. “The law in 2018 called my son’s death an accident, but that clearly didn’t apply in his case, and it doesn’t apply in most cases,” Lockwood stated. “Driving is not a right; it is a privilege and a responsibility.”
The decision to replace “accident” with “crash” was supported by various organizations, including the A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education (ABATE), Active Transportation Alliance, Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Illinois Collaboration on Youth. These groups recognized the significance of accurate terminology in addressing the preventable nature of many vehicular incidents.
The urgency for this change is evident in the alarming statistics. Despite the decrease in traffic volume during 2020 and 2021, fatal crashes in Illinois increased by 16% and 29% respectively, claiming the lives of 2,537 individuals. Nationally, vehicle crash deaths are at a sixteen-year high, with a 10% increase reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Illinois’s move to redefine crashes as intentional acts serves as a poignant reminder that driver behavior can have dire consequences. By shifting the focus from “accidents” to “crashes,” the law aims to create a cultural shift, encouraging drivers to be more mindful of their actions behind the wheel. With this change, Illinois takes a bold step toward promoting accountability and preventing unnecessary loss of life on its roads.