Most days in every major city accidents happen in which people are injured or killed. These are real accidents: unintended injurious events caused by a “mistake” made by the parties involved. People fail to act quickly enough or act too quickly. (Over-reaction by inexperienced or incompetent drivers causes a significant number of accidents.)
To guard against too many mistakes being made by too many people, and to minimize the injury from these mistakes, we have three basic protections. The first is a large number of road safety rules. The second is a licensing system that tries to ensure that drivers have at least a minimally acceptable knowledge of these rules, a minimally acceptable driving skill level, and insurance in the event that they do have an accident that results in some kind of damage. The third is good engineering to maximize safety through road infrastructure and motor vehicle design.
Rules, licensing and engineering do not always prevent people from acting irresponsibly. While some accidents are unavoidable (a landslide blocks the highway and cars crash) and many result from negligence (following another vehicle too closely), a significant number of accidents are caused by wrong decisions.
Human nature being what it is, traffic “accidents” often happen that are accidental only in the sense of being unusual events where the full consequences were not intended. The intentionality is typically found in the decision to not follow a traffic rule. Intentionality can be seen in a range, from deliberate carelessness (hope no one gets hurt) to recklessness (too bad for them if they don’t get out of the way).
Criminal law deals with premeditated carelessness and recklessness. If someone is injured or killed by a reckless driver, the driver may face criminal penalties that include a prison sentence. Also, insurance coverage for the reckless motorist may not be available if the insurance company finds that the driver’s actions make the driver ineligible for protection under the insurance policy.
Weekly, there are stories reported of “accidents” that are really events based on bad decisions, which have predictable results. For example, on Friday September 8th two young women took a car in Grand Prairie, Alberta and then reportedly drove dangerously for hundreds of kilometers through central BC. Not surprisingly, on Saturday afternoon north of Clinton they spun out of control and were broadsided by a pickup truck. The 18 year-old driver was fatally injured when thrown from the vehicle. The two occupants of the pickup truck were also injured.
Road rage stories are also about intentional behaviour. Proceedings are still underway on the eight charges laid against a Richmond man who was reprimanded by a pedestrian in a crosswalk, whom he narrowly missed hitting with his car. He then, reportedly, got out of his vehicle holding a gun and shot at a passing cyclist who had come to the pedestrian’s defense.
One lesson from history (and today’s newspapers) is that bad behaviour is inevitable, and courtesy is not.