Friday, February 13, 2009

100 Deaths a Day

If I told you there is an epidemic taking more than 100 lives a day would you be afraid, inquisitive, alarmed, outraged? Just over 100 people on average die each day in the United States as a result of car crashes. This epidemic is taking the lives of mothers, fathers, children, brothers, and sisters.

The recent coverage of air travel from the NTSB hearing on medical helicopter safety, to the miraculous landing of the airliner in the Hudson River, to today’s unfortunate and tragic airliner crash into a home in Buffalo, NY all highlight the obstacles ahead of us striving to reduce traffic related deaths and injuries.

Are car crashes deemed unavoidable or simply seen as the price we must pay for mobility? There is no doubt both of these plane crashes deserved a great deal of attention, but where is the public outcry and attention for those who die in car crashes?

I would argue if 100 people died each day as a result of national air travel in the U.S. there would be a public outcry to make air travel safer. The question remains as to how we harness individual outrage over traffic related deaths and injuries into a public outcry that can’t be ignored.


xceptit said...

Hello Pete

Would you like to make a real difference on our highways?

Al said...

The problem as I see it, and I have been looking since 1965 when I entered the field of driver education, is that our government leaders don't care about traffic safety. Yes, despite all the laws that are passed, our state governments don't really care about traffic safety. Moreover, they welcome traffic crashes, they actually encourage traffic crashes! Many of the laws passed by our State governments are designed to fool the public into thinking they care about safety when, in fact, they don't. An outrageous statement, you say? With your indulgence I will offer proof.

First of all we need to understand that crashing is a business. It is said that traffic crashes cost the public over 230 billion dollars. How horrible, from the public's point of view. But from the State's point of view it is wonderful. State treasuries are enhanced by millions of dollars from all the business transactions that flow from traffic crashes (doctor bills, hospital bills, repair bills, new car bills, etc. etc.). When money changes hands States get a portion of it in the form of taxes and fines. Can anyone do the math? How much is 8% of 230 billion? Now why would the States want people to drive safely and kill that industry and dry up all that revenue? The simple answer is they don't, but, of course, they can't be honest about it. So, they find ways to fool the public with revenue producing "safety" laws.

Case in point: the highly touted ban against holding a cell phone while driving. A law that is both scandalous and fraudulent.

Scandalous because it was never about safety. It was all about money. First they forced everyone to rush out and buy headsets. Can we say sales tax, baby? Then they know that most drivers are lawbreakers and would hold the phone in plain sight so here was a new source of revenue from new summonses that could now be written.

Fraudulent because holding a phone is not the problem. If it were then drivers shouldn't be allowed to hold anything while driving; not a pencil, not a lipstick, not a cup of coffee, not anything. No, the problem is the conversation. That's what is the distraction. That's what takes a driver's mind and eyes off the road. Every survey ever done by the Foundation for Traffic Safety has come to that conclusion. But, lawmakers, who have access to the same surveys, didn't ban the "conversation," did they? No, only "holding" the phone. In this way, the are encouraging drivers to have a false sense of security thinking that talking while driving is okay as long as no one knows you're doing it. A horrendous fraud that has been perpetrated upon the motoring public. Shane on all the legislators who voted in favor of such a law, including Rep. Ortiz of NY who authored it.

Based on this one law, and there are many others, any reasonable and prudent individual must come to the conclusion that State governments are not serious about improving safety on our roads. So why should drivers? Drivers drive unsafely because they can.

Parking over the limit brings almost certain punishment, therefore drivers diligently avoid it. But, speeding is now the norm because it rarely results in a summons (except when there is a crackdown to enhance revenue). Even drivers who kill people with their vehicles are rarely charged with anything. In NY, from 1994 to 2004, only 29 drivers were ever charged with a crime after killing someone with their vehicle. The message is clear: keeping driving recklessly, we need the money.

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