Sunday, May 30, 2010

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths?

This is the title of a New York Times article from May 27, 2010. Some of the people who I receive regular updates from their writings and agencies were interviewed for the article.

I don't respond to a many articles I read but this one I felt compelled to. The reason? This is a topic that I agree completely with. We DO tolerate too many traffic deaths.

Here is my response. (#41 of the comment section.) Does that mean I can say that I have been published in the NYT?!?

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes we do!

I fail to see why there is a debate with this issue. One death on our roads is one too many. The goal of zero deaths is honourable, but not likely. Having said that, any progress to attaining that goal is worthwhile and necessary.

Recently the world went into a sate of panic and fear based on a disease that killed a few hundred people and was classified as a pandemic. Governments were throwing obscene amounts of money towards the prevention, treatment and education for the public and health officials.

Yet, the pandemic numbers of injured and dead from the H1N1 globally did not come close to the number of injured and dead in any civilized nation.

You can argue cause and reason, factors and formulas or environment and engineering all you want. The common denominator is human behaviour which leads to human error. The worlds safest roadways can become filled with the bodies of dead and injured by the factor of disregarding simple safety and common sense rules while the worst roads travelled with awareness, adherence to laws, operating within safety guides for the conditions and alert behaviours can be injury and death free.

I believe the media, insurance companies, governments and law enforcement bears the burden of one major problem in the acceptance of road deaths and injuries. The term accident became part of the vernacular of describing collisions and crashes somewhere along the way and has cemented itself there.

Accident makes the liability, blame and cause of collisions minimal at best and creates an escape clause for those responsible for the event. I saw an insurance company website recently that promoted a "responsibility project" that used the term accident all through their material. If any industry has a reason to put blame and fault where it belongs, its the insurance industry.

Collisions are predictable and preventable. Drive distracted, impaired, fatigued, aggressive, unaware or unskilled and you will cause injuries and or death.

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes we do. One person with one gun and fifteen bullets on a rampage would be national headlines for days/months. That persons actions, background, triggers, soci-economic status and position n society would make for grand headlines and debate.

One person with one car driving impaired or aggressive, distracted or unskilled has at any given moment in a city or urban environment, the potential to kill many, many more people, but yet we respond with barely a raised eyebrow at that person being arrested or crashing without incident.

Last point. Think of the money that is directed to health care and the legal industries from the results of collisions. Billions of dollars to treat the injured, facilitate long term disability changes, prosecute accused persons, incarcerate those and pay for the ensuing law suits. I have no idea how much money is directed to just those two ares, but suffice to say; could you imagine how many hungry children could be fed with that money. How many seniors could receive better and more adequate health care. How many veterans could be honourably be taken care of for their service to our countries. The laundry list of positive uses of the redirection of those monies is long and far better for the overall good of our communities.

Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths? Yes, sadly we do. So lets stop tolerating them. Train better drivers, punish those appropriately who endanger public safety, place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of those that deserve it and treat the totality of event for what they ongoing pandemic.

Sgt. Tim Burrows
Toronto Police Service - Traffic Services

Photo credit: Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

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