Monday, August 28, 2006

Traffic Justice Putting Traffic Deaths into Perspectives

Traffic Justice: Putting Traffic Deaths into Perspectives

Yesterday's news about a plane crash in Kentucky that killed 49 people was the first fatal airline crash since October 9, 2004 when 13 people died on an American Connection flight in Kirksville, MO. The news of the crash took up significant airtime of all the major news channels

Contrast that to the approximately 115 people that died yesterday in traffic crashes, and in the 678 days since the Kirksville MO plane crash 78,000 people have died on our roads. Sadly many of those deaths will only be noted in the "police blotter" section of local papers and others will not be reported on at all. I have yet to hear a TV news team run an "Are You Safe" scare story on being hit by motor vehicles.

Perhaps it's because of the severity of plane crashes that the emphasis by the FAA and NTSB has been on crash prevention, Howard Stern once mentioned on his radio show that his anxiety about flying vs driving was based on the fact that he never heard of an "airline fender bender". Airline crash prevention strategies have worked and in recent years airline safety performance has been a phenomenal success.

But when it comes to road safety we look at crash impact reduction, an attempt at reduce all crashes to "fender benders". Seat belts, air bags, helmets etc. When proposal's brought forward that that monitor driver actions or change behavoir (red light cameras, cell phone restrictions, black boxes) many scream that these measures infringe on their"right to privacy".

Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the fatality report for 2005 Traffic Deaths were up 1.4% and for the first time in many years deaths per million vehicle miles traveled went up. Clearly our national safety strategies seem to stalling.

And when you look at vulnerable road users - Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists the news is worse; deaths are up 5% for pedestrians and 7% for bicyclists and motorcyclists. Clearly the best airbags in the world will do nothing to protect us that are exposed to the elements.