Change Chance

This week I saw a journalist’s blog named “By Chance.” She asks, “don’t most events in our lives happen by chance?” She aims to share chance observations and experiences. Even her cat was named Chance. She really believes in chance!

I don’t believe in chance. Most of the time, things that we think are chance occurrences are really coincidences. And chance and coincidence are different things.

To bring that thought down a notch (because it’s way too philosophical for me to deal!), it’s similar to using the word “accident.” Accident implies chance. It means:

  • Someone fell off a roof while hanging Christmas lights and broke his neck due to chance.
  • A new teen driver smashed into a tree with three friends in the car, killing two friends, due to chance.
  • Grandma slipped on sidewalk ice and fractured her hip. And a year later instead of living independently in her own home, she is a nursing home resident for the rest of her days. Due to chance.
  • A pedestrian walking while talking on a cell phone steps into Michigan Avenue in Chicago and gets hit by a taxi, critically injured, due to chance.

Chance means when these things happened, they were:

  • Fate
  • Uncontrollable
  • Random
  • Flukes
  • Unforeseeable
  • Meant to happen
  • Due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time

Most egregious, you hear people say, “it was just that person’s time.” Ugh! No, it wasn’t that person’s time. These things don’t have to happen. The guy who fell off the roof should be opening Christmas presents with his kids. Those teens should all arrive home safely. Grandma should bake cookies for her grandchildren in her own house. The pedestrian should get to work that day. 

How can anyone use chance as an excuse for these situations?

In fact, all of these situations are preventable. People who are mathematical crackerjacks with probability algorithms could likely even predict probability of these incidents with accuracy. That is not chance, folks. It means there are factors that predict these situations could happen.

So let’s look real quick at obvious factors for why these four situations are not chance, why they are not accidents. They are preventable. And this is how:

  • Falls from roofs are a major cause of death for construction workers, who are  used to being on roofs. People climbing on their own house’s roof should take cues from construction employers’ safety playbook – use guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems if there’s danger of falling more than six feet. Considering that most homeowners won’t go to this extent, a few other options: 1) don’t hang lights on areas of the house beyond safe reach of a ladder or 2) costly as it is, hire insured professionals to hang lights, it’s cheaper than the costs of falling. Or don’t hang lights on the house. Creative companies sell lots of other decorations for our houses and lawns.
  • In many states, teen drivers with intermediate/junior licenses cannot drive with three teen friends. There’s a very good reason for this. A 16- or 17-year-old teen driver’s crash risk rises 4-5 times with that many friends in the car. Passengers are very distracting to new teen drivers. Simply put, the teen shouldn’t have had friends in the car. And the passengers shouldn’t have ridden with their friend, possibly illegally, depending on the state they lived in.
  • Ice should have been melted or cleared off the sidewalk so no one can fall on ice. Older residents should find volunteer or paid services to do this for them. In addition, the woman should have regular exercise program to build strength and balance, regular eye doctor visits, and proper management of all her medications and their interactions. Calcium and weight bearing exercise could also help prevent or delay osteoporosis which might improve the woman’s outcome in a fall. Install things that could help prevent or break falls along her sidewalks, such as grab bars or railings to hold. Beyond just the fall injury, falls among older people can lead to repeat falls, loss of independent living and early death.
  • In addition to the research that shows talking on cell phones contributes to car crashes, research shows pedestrians are impaired when talking on cell phones too. They look around less for potential hazards. They don’t notice things in the environment around them. They step into streets when vehicles are coming. The pedestrian shouldn’t have been talking on a cell phone, especially in the busy and hazard-filled Michigan Avenue area. This is an emerging issue and most people aren’t yet aware of the risks. Education could center around riskier areas with high pedestrian and street traffic.

So if these are preventable, and they’re not chance accidents, what are they? They are exactly what they are: crashes, falls, getting hit by a car.

Let’s change how these things are described and leave chance out of it.

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