Sunday, 20 March 2016

Comparing road deaths and injuries with other forms of more alarming ways to be dead

Joseph Stalin may have once said "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." As we are about to see in this blog post, that is very true of our roads.

People remember things like 9/11 as tragedies, with posters and slogans saying "Never Forget", very well because they involve startling and uncommon ways to kill and injure. But more mundane and things we think are safe, really aren't. Note that this post is in no way denigrating the effects of any casualties. I recommend you read this blog post: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2010/02/this-must-never-happen-again.html

Each year in the US alone, about 70000 people die every 2 years as a direct result of road collisions. Quite a number. Let's see how many the atomic bomb Little Boy dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killed. Around 40-80 thousand. So we are quite close to the number killed. Why does the atom bomb feel so dangerous and yet cars seem so safe? 

The town of Millet has about 2000 people living in it. Assuming someone strikes at a time when no visitors are present, and kills everyone, we would have about the same number dead as those who already do in traffic collisions. 

If we eliminated 4 schools with 500 people in them each, then we would also have pretty much the same casualty rate as the national traffic death number. 

And let's go worldwide. Around 1.2 million people (as of 2012) die each year in traffic collisions. That would be like wiping off the entire city of Calgary off the map. As much as Abu Bakr would like that to happen, it would be the same number as the worldwide road death count. 

Let's see what would happen if someone were to go postal and kill about 30 people each year, going around to random locations in the city, that would be the same number as Edmonton's current count from traffic fatalities. About as many as those murdered. 

Let's go to injuries. How how about if we maim about 50 million people, the same as living in the following cities combined: Philadelphia, Tokyo, Los Angeles, London (UK), NYC? Same number as those injured by traffic each and every year. 

One in every classroom of students in each school in the UK will be killed in a traffic collision by around the age of 20. Would anyone tolerate the idea of one in every classroom of students being murdered? 

Vsauce has a video about how people perceive risk. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-CK8VxMz9g. It talks about how startling and surprising means of casualties are often those that are the worrying kind. Airplane crashes, despite how infrequent they are, are generally seen as more of a problem than cars do. Emissions from planes do cause problems though, but directly, cars are more dangerous. 

Edmonton adopted Vision 0 in September. However, they have not adopted the required changes to roadway design manuals and standards, or even any guidelines. This makes it that it looks like education seems to be the only thing that might change, and probably in only small ways, if any. But it is always the mistakes that lead to crashes and casualties. Education will only do a small amount for preventing mistakes. It does nothing to rectify the results of the mistakes, other than perhaps educating people about how to provide medical aid or something like that. And this goes for everywhere that claims to adopt Vision 0 but does not redesign roads like Sweden and especially the Netherlands does. 

Drivers and other road users are put in the unfortunate position that because their mistakes are not prevented or forgiven by roadway design, they become killers and maimers just because of the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is why I have said elsewhere and here that only those who are being reckless and those intending to cause a problem should feel the force of law, and the media and families pouncing all over them. But what our laws, families and media should be focusing on is preventing the crash from happening again. So long as our roads are the same, the same crash is almost inevitable. We can't change the past, but we can affect the future. 

The Dutch and the Swedes realized this around the mid-late 1990s, By changing their streets systematically and before waiting for a bad crash record, they have achieved a low number of traffic collisions. By investing in cycle infrastructure, the Netherlands has the safest streets in the world for cyclists. They compete for lowest traffic deaths, but only because they use the right mentality. 

I find our lack of caring disturbing. Do I have to force choke you to realize this (those who've watched Star Wars knows what I'm talking about)?

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