There Are No Accidents

By Jessie Singer,

Book cover of There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price

Book description

A journalist recounts the surprising history of accidents and reveals how they've come to define all that's wrong with America.

We hear it all the time: "Sorry, it was just an accident." And we've been deeply conditioned to just accept that explanation and move on. But as Jessie Singer argues…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked There Are No Accidents as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The title is arresting: what does it mean? (No, it’s not another conspiracy theory.)

Think of an automobile “accident.” Was it really just a chance event, or was it a predictable, even inevitable result of many decisions that permit careless operators of enormous machines to careen about inches away from pedestrians and sometimes—oops!—to run down people like Jessie Singer’s late bicyclist friend. Or think of a child maimed while working overnight in a chicken plant: what do we mean when we call that an accident?

From these and other examples, the book delves even deeper. We want to blame someone,…

My dad was a crane inspector, and generally spent his career making sure that accidents didn’t happen.

He would say that 95% of accidents were operator error. But what was interesting is how much effort he’d put into preventing disasters even if the operator made an error. It has influenced how I approach programming. The user is never wrong, even when they do something very odd.

Jessie’s book, There Are No Accidents, is dedicated to a friend of hers who was killed cycling in New York City, by a drunk driver.

Her book however explains how such “accidents” are not only the fault of the people who directly cause them, but also of social systems that make it possible for bad decisions to cause catastrophes, and who it is who profits from them.

As a cyclist, I think about that all of the time whenever I get into an argument with a driver who – accidentally – almost kills me.

From Daniel's list on urbanists who hate cars.

Losing my cousin and a friend in car crashes helped lead me to study car culture, so I was drawn to this book knowing its author had a similar motivation in writing it. Each year, tens of thousands of Americans die and millions are injured as a result of vehicle crashes. Singer explores the question of how something that happens with such terrifying regularity can continue to be framed as random, unavoidable, accidental. She shows how a system that serves products over people allows for a culture of victim blaming, making harm prevention more difficult.

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