Below is a letter written by Candace Lightner to jacksonville.com reporter Jim Schoettler. Jim wrote this story: Serial DUI Driver Laments Over Death of 19 Year Old Jacksonville Man in which the word "accident" is used to describe this crime by both the defendant and the reporter.
Like others who hear and read this story, I was incensed but not surprised that a multiple repeat offender was allowed to continue to drive until he finally killed someone. This was my story 35 years ago when I started MADD. I was dismayed by this driver's comments blaming everyone else for his problem, saddened by the tragedy that followed and angered by your reporting.
By calling this an "accident", you fed into his denial and lack of accountability and fostered the defense attorney's rhetoric that these tragedies can't be helped.
I am also the founder of We Save Lives the only Florida based international organization that deals with the 3 D's, drunk, drugged and distracted driving. I always use Florida as an example of media who do not use the word accident when reporting these crimes or crashes because the police here use the term crash when making their reports and the legislature substituted the word crash for accident years ago. They recognized that most crashes occur due to driver error and are not accidents in any sense of the word.
The media insults the families of the victims and survivors when they use the "A" word and show bias in their reporting, since they are making the immediate assumption no one was at fault. I am expressing my disappointing not only on behalf of We Save Lives but also on behalf of the Crash Coalition: Drop the "A" Word with more than 52 national and international organizations and thousands of members who support our belief that use of the word accident is just plain wrong.
These drivers make choices, those choices lead to crashes and crimes (impaired driving is a very serious crime) and those deadly and irresponsible choices should not be excused by calling them accidents. I hope in the future your reporting will reflect the feelings of victims and survivors and demonstrate more accuracy in reporting. I am located not far from Jacksonville and would be most happy to meet with your editorial board if you would like to discuss this further.
Thank you for your time.To his credit, Jim has responded to Candace's e-mail and put her in touch with his editors. Candace has proposed a meeting to discuss their use of the word "accident".