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Traffic Accidents and Human Security

[ 21 ] June 9, 2010 |

As part of my research project on what does and doesn’t count as a “human security” problem in the minds of practitioners, I’ve collected quite a few ideas about “neglected” human security issues that should get more attention. Among there are traffic accidents – something we tend to tolerate as a fact of modern life but which kill far more people daily than terrorism, war, or crime and are in fact the number of health risk for individuals age 1-34: – one death every 13 minutes on average (as many dead per month as died on 9/11) with young children twice as likely as adults to be victims.

So I’m happy to call readers’ attention to the NYTimes’ latest “Room for Debate.” There is a lot of interesting commentary, and in particular I am now aware of Tom Vanderbilt’s blog, which is worth a look.

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Comments (21)

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  1. M. Bouffant says:

    Not just the deaths, but the thousands who survive an encounter w/ an automobile, & are permanently disabled.

    The less empathetic (conservatives) can be reminded how much care for the survivors costs.

  2. Malaclypse says:

    Another good example is OSHA violations.

  3. DocAmazing says:

    I’m a San Francisco bicyclist, so I can rant about this subject for hours, if allowed to do so.

    The problem is complex; many people drive who could just as easily use public transportation, but don’t want the (perceived) inconvenience or the unwanted human contact; many drivers feel that speed limits are an intrusion on their rights (rather than a well-studied assessment of things like lines of sight, stopping times, and pavement quality) and will go at the speed they damn well please; many police officers, tasked with upholding traffic law, are extremely unenthusiastic about stopping speeders and enforcing laws against weaving and unsignalled turns (possibly because these officers are themselves drivers, and don’t see the problem). Of course, there’s more, and no discussion of the damage done by motoring would be complete without referring to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico or rising global temperatures, but a lot would be helped through the simple expedient of enforcing existing traffic laws. (Yes, there are any number of bicyclists who run stop signs; that’s nice, but comparing a vehicle that weighs two to three hundred pounds with rider and moves at fifteen miles per hour to one that weighs one to two tons with driver and moves at thirty miles per hour displays a profound ignorance of physics.)

    Some municipalities have begun to attempt to make driving less attractive (congestion pricing, increased tolls, removal of free parking) and bicycling and mass transit easier–but budget cuts have done real damage to mass transit, at least here in California. Still, there will be no improvement in the motoring death toll without slowing motorists down and giving them alternatives to driving.

  4. […] Via Charli Carpenter, an interesting NYT “room for debate” feature on the question of why don’t we care more about the huge number of Americans who die in car crashes. This is sort of a pet peeve of mine. Over 37,000 people died in motor vehicle fatalities in 2008 and that was a low year. […]

  5. catclub says:

    If you measure deaths per passenger mile, it is astonishingly low. Your life expectancy in a car,
    traveling 60mph 24/7/365 is about 112 years last I
    checked. Since that is higher than normal life expectancy, what improvements are recommended?

    reading about “target risk” and risk homeostasis
    are interesting.

  6. catclub says:

    That figure is for the US. Some nations are safer,
    but not much.

    Interstate highways are really incredibly safe.
    Nations with higher death rates are not the ones with autobahn-like highways.

  7. wengler says:

    Most car crashes are caused by people doing incredibly stupid things with 3,000 pound moving objects. Of course this affects everyone because that moving object could go right into and kill you in any number of gruesome ways.

    I think people are more serious about safety now than they ever have before. The solution, however, is autonomous automobile control so that drunks, texters, talkers, teenagers, and old people all arrive home safe. This type of system is not very far off at all(DARPA has been sponsoring the development of autonomous driving systems for some time now). However, adoption of this system will take awhile due to resistance from drivers.

  8. Stag Party Palin says:

    (Yes, there are any number of bicyclists who run stop signs; that’s nice, but comparing a vehicle that weighs two to three hundred pounds with rider and moves at fifteen miles per hour to one that weighs one to two tons with driver and moves at thirty miles per hour displays a profound ignorance of physics.)

    Sorry Doc – the ones displaying ignorance of physics and the meaning of life are the bikers running the stop signs. And, just as a fer instance, I got passed on the inside last week by such a person as I was making a right turn. Missed him by that much. What worries me is not that I might have made ketchup of him, the idiot, but what I might have done in panic trying to avoid him. Hit a pedestrian? Run up on the sidewalk? Crash into something more substantial than a biker?

    No, not all of them do this kind of thing, but so many of them do. In principle I sympathize with cyclists, but in practice I treat them like rabid dogs.

    • Malaclypse says:

      And, just as a fer instance, I got passed on the inside last week by such a person as I was making a right turn.

      Bear with me: does that mean that you passed a bicycle on his left, then made a right turn into him/her? Because unless the bike was going faster than you, which seems unlikely, that’s how I envision it (and my apologies in advance if my mental image is incorrect). And if that is the case, you made a right turn from the left of another vehicle. If that scenario was describing two cars, the one on the left is obviously at fault. At least in Massachusetts, the bike is legally a vehicle, just like a car or a motorcycle. You would never pass one of them on the left then cut right, would you? It sounds like you just resented needing to slow down and wait on the bike, and decided to teach him/her a lesson.

      Again, my apologies if I misunderstood your description of the incident. But it sounds to me as though you were driving to endanger, and don’t care that you almost ran over someone who, unlike you, was obeying traffic laws.

      I’m hoping I completely misunderstood what you described, and again offer my apologies if that is the case. Because if I understood you correctly, that is some serious disregard for human life you displayed. Bikers die when people pull right hooks on them. It is one of the worst driver behaviors to encounter, because you can’t prepare for it. When it happens, bikers go under the car, which makes them dead (over the car often makes them only seriously hurt). Right hooks are bad, bad things.

      In principle I sympathize with cyclists, but in practice I treat them like rabid dogs.

      What does that actually mean?

    • DocAmazing says:

      I got passed on the inside last week by such a person as I was making a right turn.

      We bicyclists call that a “right hook. You motorists almost never signal (or, if you do, you do so at the apex of the turn, not before it).

      This is classic motorist logic: the thing that does the damage (the ton-and-a-half car) couldn’t possibly be at fault; everybody else just got in the way. Sounds very international-relationsy, nicht wahr?

  9. Jager says:

    A big problem, driver education (either privately or through the schools)is a joke. The driver’s test in California is all about the quiz, not about skills, the driving part is ridiculous. Like anything else driving takes practice and you don’t get that riding around with an instructor and three other kids in the car for a couple of weeks. I sent both my kids to Skip Barber’s teen driving course, they learned how to control skids, how to avoid cars and other things in the road, they got to drive fast and they learned how to handle a car under all kinds of conditions. Most of all they learned to respect the car and the dangerous things that can happen if you don’t pay attention. They both have been driving for years, no accidents and no tickets. The oldest got her first warning the other day, for no license plate light! It was burned out. The course saved us a ton worry and $$ on insurance.

  10. Emma says:

    In New South Wales, Australia, where I live, the driving test involves 100 hours of logged practice, a pretty hard driving test which almost no one passes first time, and several written tests, provisional licensing for three years during which there’s mandatory sero-alcohol levels, and you get busted back to learner if you have any driving violations. It’s harsh. It’s expensive for kids to learn to drive, either in time or in money, for the parents who have to do the practice supervision (in the car) and for the kids. But our road toll is lower. A lot of young people just can’t learn — if they have no one with a car to let them practice in and come with them. One of my sons probably won’t learn to drive, as he’s away interstate at University and there’s no way we can log 100 hours in vacations.

  11. Emma says:

    Damn. That was meant to be zero alcohol levels. If you get randomly breath-tested on a provisional license, and the machine reads anything other than zero, no more license. You have to start again. It does mean that kids seem to organise designated drivers.

    • DocAmazing says:

      My understanding of things Australian is largely informed by Kevin Bloody Wilson and the movie Kenny. As a result, it’s difficult for me to imagine Australians doing anything without having had a few beers beforehand.

  12. […] I was traveling, Charli Carpenter and Matt Yglesias both picked up on a recent NYT commentary on the relative lack of attention that […]

  13. james says:

    Cycling Traffic Accidents involve cars and heavy goods vehicles whose drivers had simply not noticed the cyclist when turning left across a bicycle, on average, one cyclist every day is hospitalized due to a cycle traffic accident.If you choose to proceed with action against the negligent driver or persons responsible for your injuries, It’s easy with the help of experienced solicitor.

  14. alice says:

    o I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with everyone.

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  15. […] Decade.” Those of you who have followed my writing know I’m especially interested in candidate issues that for one reason or another get neglected relative to others that end up being more prominent in […]

  16. Prerna says:

    I am really scared of accidents too much…wish none had any ever..

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