A Rose by Any Other Name...

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “An accident by any other name is still tragic.”

As instructors, we often draw a line of distinction between accidentand incidentfor our students.  Many of us (myself included) occasionally fumble for several minutes trying to clarify this difference and reasons we use “incident” versus “accident.”  Our students may then be left scratching their heads as to why we make such a fuss.

I recently found a succinct and classic definition of “accident” in the Indiana motorcycle operator manual and took a quick snapshot.

For our purposes, I offer the following:

            Accident– unforeseen (and perhaps even unpreventable) event that occurs without        fault or negligence of persons involved

             Incident– preventable event where some responsibility for the results are with the person(s) involved

It is safe to say that nearly every bad hunting or firearm-related event could have been prevented by following the things we teach in our classes.  In news articles I’ve personally collected over the years, tragic results could have been avoided in 100% of the cases by:

  • Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
  • Keeping their finger out of the trigger area
  • Treating the firearm as if it was loaded
  • Making sure the action was open and empty until ready to fire
  • Always using but NEVER trusting the mechanical safety device
  • Proper use of fall arrest systems from the time they left the ground
  • Following manufacturer instructions
  • Use of a haul-line
  • Inspecting equipment regularly for damage or faulty operation
  • Wearing Hunter Orange
  • Positively identifying the target
  • Knowing what’s in front and behind the target
  • Maintaining safe-zones of fire
  • Wearing life jackets when on, or next to, water and ice
  • The list goes on…

An accident might be a sudden gust of wind knocking over another tree into the spot I’m standing and hunting.  An incident would be using a dead tree for my tree stand and that tree falling over while I’m up in it hunting.

So, Juliet might say, “the incident is even more tragic than an accident, my dear Romeo, because the incident was preventable.”