When industry insiders look for ways to improve auto safety, they generally look for technological solutions. New braking systems, better airbags, improved tires and other advances often have the potential to make a small difference at the margins. The bulk of motor vehicle fatalities, however, are not the result of insufficient technology. Driver error is the cause of most traffic fatalities. As such, improvements in human behavior have the greatest potential to save the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently called for a greater emphasis on altering driver behavior, rather than always relying on technology to save lives. He suggested that safety technology and initiatives aimed at improving driver behavior should be pursued together to achieve the NHTSA’s goal of zero traffic deaths. Whether that goal is realistic is not the point. The idea is that everything that can be done to eliminate deadly collisions should be done. No stone should be left unturned in the quest to make driving safer for everyone.
The comments were interesting, given the high levels of attention given to the possibility of driverless vehicles by the NHTSA. Autonomous vehicles would, of course, remove human behavior from the equation in many cases. It could be argued that the NHTSA’s best shot at zero fatalities is the purely technological solution of having computers operate all our motor vehicle traffic. It could be that the remarks were intended to pave the way for drivers to adopt autonomous vehicles more readily. As it is unlikely the technology will be made mandatory anytime soon, the advancement of driverless cars could be left to the whims of the marketplace.
Regardless of the long-term aims of the NHTSA, the point remains valid. The best, most effective way to reduce fatal car and truck accidents is for drivers to stop making poor decisions. Just by eliminating drunk and distracted driving, thousands of lives per year would be spared. It’s worth the effort to try to change the way people look at safe driving.
Source: Tire Business, “NHTSA chief says changing behaviors must be part of safety equation,” by Larry P. Vellequette, 4 August 2016
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