Friday, 20 May 2016

Double standards

I've been reading quite a bit about statistics and the logic that different people put out. I want to show you some examples of double standards when it comes to this.

Planes are actually statistically safe. You know all the buzz that came when a Malaysia Airlines flight was lost over the Indian Ocean? It got so much buzz because we don't need to save the next day's newspaper space for the next crash which isn't likely to happen again for a long time. There are loads of procedures meant to remove the ability for the screw ups of humans to make us do dangerous things. Autopilot being a useful tool in this. People get bored pretty quickly. This, it takes over during long flights, and is actually capable of operating entirely on it's own if it were allowed, landings and take offs included. Loads of checklists for just about everything. There are two pilots so that there is a smaller chance that one will be doing something stupid, and one can take a break when they need to. There are also very few opportunities that planes could ever get near one another. Air traffic control routes planes on completely different paths keeping them often kilometres apart if not tens of kilometres apart or more. And if they ever do stray, there is plenty of time to correct a mistake, there's lots of space to realize that a mistake is being made and you can correct with time to spare.

And if a crash does happen, it's among the things that makes crash investigators work the hardest on even the smallest details, down to duct tape on the plane skin even. It can take more than a year to issue the final report. Sometimes regulation changes even occur. This leads to a very low crash number, 898 fatalities each year. Over a world population of more than 7 billion people, and especially comparing that 1.2 million are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes, this is very safe. Of course they go further, but this is balanced out by people generally taking few place trips per year. It also feels like every plane crash is a disaster, even though the US alone needs only about 3 days to create as many casualties as MH17

Car crashes on the other hand aren't treated like this. Few are ever considered a disaster, massive pile ups on motorways perhaps. They are shrugged off, very quickly. If we were to have the same coverage dedicated to car crashes in the media as plane crashes, we'd be swamped, easily overwhelmed by the sheer number. The investigators would also probably be overwhelmed as well, although there is usually less to check out. How many wikipedia pages do you think there would be? Millions per year just dedicated to car crashes. We often don't investigate their causes very well. We don't take corrective measures. We give the driver at fault a fine, maybe license suspension and possibly prison, maybe a civil trial will award damages, but nothing really happens after. The road stays the same. If you are LUCKY, someone will add extra signs and the cops might focus for a week an extra sting there. If there is a fatal crash in Edmonton, the city puts up a diamond shaped sign (like a cross), no, more like a kite shape, As if that's going to change road user behavior.

Our roads NEED to understand that humans are not perfect, and we can't make ourselves perfect. Just as dog breed makers in the 1800s and Dr Frankenstein played God for a while, they failed too, because they aren't capable of making something work the way they think it would. We must make our roads capable of absorbing our mistakes. They thankfully do this a lot, most mistakes don't lead to crashes. We'd have a problem more than a hundred times worse if it didn't. But they don't go nearly far enough. We can't just expect education and enforcement to solve our problems. Our infrastructure must change. We cannot allow conflicts that are more dangerous than our roads are capable of handling and allowing mistakes that will lead to crashes too severe to be present on our roads. We can't put non forgiving lampposts next to a motorway designed for 110 km/h without a crash barrier, allow cars to mix head on at 100 km/h, require that cyclists and pedestrians mix with motor traffic on a shoulder at 80 km/h, or other conflicts that will inevitably have people making mistakes. It only takes one to cause a major problem.

We try to solve this problem for cyclists by making them wear helmets and high viz or advising them to ride in the middle of the lane. This doesn't work. Car drivers aren't hitting cyclists because they can't see them just because they don't have a high viz jacket, they miss them because of the inherent sightlines that the road has. Cyclists' lives aren't being saved with helmets in the Netherlands, they are being saved because of the fact that motor traffic is kept away and cross or mix only at low speeds and with very few cars to begin with, or with a traffic signal giving specific times to specific users.

Pedestrians too are targeted by the high viz jacket campaigns, or at least bright colours part. Just last week I missed a pedestrian wearing white while crossing the wrong arm of a junction where it was prohibited to cross with a speed limit of 60 km/h. It actually made her blend in, somewhat ironically with the white painted fences on either side. It actually made me feel horrible as a result because I know that a fatality  (for the pedestrian) is almost certain at 60, and if my mom didn't spot her before I could reach that point on the road... This also shows that most people aren't ignorant, nor are they trying to commit driving offenses, and that people if a crash happens do feel horrible and often hate themselves for making a mistake like that. People normally have altruism, and people normally want to take care of others, especially if they know in their hearts who made the mistake.

Most car crashes are genuine mistakes. It is the consistent failure of our roads to give natural reasons for obeying a rule, to forgive mistakes so that they are not lethal nor seriously injurious, and to rule out conflicts happening at speeds where they will seriously hurt people, or worse. Our roads are not Sustainably Safe. Please understand this. If you still blame people for their own misfortune, well who would be blaming you if a crash involving you happens? The number of people killed each year is equal to that of a large city each and every year, more serious injuries, broken bones, disabilities, lost limbs, brain function loss, paralysis, dangerous infections, more of those happen as a result of car crashes than the entirety of Canada's population, all of them, and more than twice the population of Australia, and the equal of South Korea.

And do you seriously want to continue these policies for people who don't even have the freedom to not live on roads like this, like small children, who have to use them despite the serious risks involved?

1 comment:

  1. A good article on double standards. Human should be treat the same whatever the situations. Thanks for this information.

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