Browse Publications Technical Papers 2006-21-0063
2006-10-16

Re-Thinking Traffic Safety: The Global Situation, The Behavioral Model, Strategies for Improvement 2006-21-0063

Recent United Nations and World Health Organization reports and resolutions indicate that the world has and is experiencing ever-increasing, epidemic and catastrophic levels of automotive violence as we use our cars.
Meanwhile, many U.S. traffic safety agencies, government and influential business concerns have been reluctant to consider or adopt “public policy” measures based on a cultural “behavior model” to improve road users’ understanding, ability and safety performance.[1] Concerted measures and approaches to set standards and improve upon or solve human error/performance difficulties are well documented in all fields of human endeavor, except with and for U.S. drivers. These tactics are rejected as a way to resolve this “public problem”, even in the face of demonstrated successes elsewhere in the world. There is little agency and governmental confidence in the driving public's ability to improve.
The pressure toward a more intelligent vehicle or intelligent transportation system is to eventually supercede the individual driver's intelligence, judgment or maneuverability. The moral question is, upon whose judgment will the driver be dependent should the vehicle be made self-directed? Should the car be made as driverless as a roller coaster? Would drivers be then helpless to prevent or protect themselves from other potential mishaps? Who would be responsible then? If the computer crashes, it'll still be on the desk.
In the case of every speed limit sign being “chipped” to control each vehicle's speed within a local area, or the community traffic control regulating several thousand vehicles, in the event of failure or sabotage of the system the chaos would be immediate without other independent redundancy. What is the potential for the “arrogance of intelligence” or “blindness of ideology”[2] to replace personal, individual decision-making, judgment, and choice. Policies that would reduce these
Jeffersonian principles can potentially be implemented without public awareness or consensus.
Producing significant, individual personal improvements on a national or global scale is a daunting task. But then, if individual drivers have fundamental control over the vehicle, shouldn't society provide for, encourage, expect and require, individually, more “expert” control and decision making? The analogy is; the iceberg did not hit the Titanic, but the Titanic tragedy undoubtedly improved the standards of intercontinental marine shipping just as FAA investigations prevent and reduce air mishaps.
“Sound science” and technology will continue to make substantive contributions in the equipment and efforts to assist and manage the operative control of the vehicle within its environment. However, can these externally applied controls manage populations dependent on convenient, independent, discretionary mobility?
Developing and producing ever-better equipment and controls eventually focuses conscious decision making on someone, somewhere. In driving, it too frequently happens “all of a sudden”. Let's think about that. It seems we can accomplish almost anything we can imagine. What decisions are made, who makes them and how; that is the subject of this paper.
The automotive manufacturing industries and the engineering community can take this opportunity to offer substantive and influential contributions and recommendations regarding the safer and more effective use of their products. The industry can initiate a “hands-on approach’ advocating a collective “Zero Error”, “One-Mind-at-a-Time”, “Take Away the Excuses” driver improvement campaign.
What would be the value of public informational campaigns, educational priorities, training standards, requirements, evaluation and enforcement compared with and beyond the price, cost, toll and loss of this continuing global catastrophe?

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