NHTSA Exclusive: Review of Studies on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, 1991-2007 Part III: Rewrite I

So sickened I am by the totally incompetent wastes of space that the tax squandering NHTSA is, I’m going to do their job for them and actually write some decent policy. Too bad that, unlike them, I’m not getting paid for this or will anyone read this.

Background:

Despite the large number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobiles, government agencies, like the NHTSA take the immoral stance that we are all “equally” to blame for this situation. In reality, if you banned walking and bicycling, there would still be too many people dying inside of automobiles.

In this study, the NHTSA takes its twisted logic to a dark conclusion and begins to blame children, yes children, for their own deaths.

In order to show that there is a healthier, happier, and less expensive alternative to the madness that the NHTSA promotes, I will propose real world safety interventions which will actually work.

Objectives and methods:

I am going to rewrite the above paper using only proven methods to increase safety. I’ll examine the specifics of the papers in another article.

Results:

General: We have known, for decades what works and what does not work but due to the fear of motorists’ and due to seeking protection for themselves, government agencies go out of their way to absolve motoring for the death and destruction that it causes.

Epidemiology: In general, despite our knowledge, we ask the wrong questions. Some better questions we can ask is: was there proper infrastructure in the location that the collision occurred? If not, why not? If it is at night, did the motorist have their lights on? Were there street lights? What color was the automobile? What was the estimated speed as well as posted speed limit where the collision occurred?

Problem size: Since it’s immoral to kill people with great frequency and regularity, getting the precise totals is a waste of time. It is worthwhile to determine where the worst areas are in order to work on those first, however.

Crash and injury causation: For nearly 100% of the crashes, one might say that the motorist was driving at such a high speed that she was not prepared to stop in a timely manner. Furthermore, we might note that the most likely reason for the severity of the injury is due to the great size and speed of the motor vehicle.

The next part was a glimmer of wisdom until I realized that it was, again, a way of getting motorists of the hook.

“Laws and enforcement.: Research shows that many traffic laws regulating the interaction
among drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians are ignored regularly. Some laws may not be known or
understood. Others may be ignored because they appear unnecessary. Enforcement is sporadic
and ineffective in improving behavior.”

“The most obvious need is to establish a strategy regarding these laws and their
enforcement. One possibility is to accept the current situation and recognize that these laws
describe ideal behavior but will not be obeyed regularly. This strategy accepts that laws and
enforcement have little role in improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

I would argue that enforcing most laws for pedestrians and cyclists is harassment as it does not increase safety, traffic level of service, nor maximize any other public good other to placate the irrational feelings of some people’s notion of “fairness”.

In a truly fair world, there wouldn’t be any laws governing pedestrian behavior and cyclists would follow laws more as a courtesy to one another rather than as a way to avoid (in many people’s minds) dying for minor infractions.

“A final possibility, intermediate between these extremes, is to concentrate on situations where conflicts are frequent, risks are high, and the public supports action, such as school zones and red light running.”

I do think that we should focus on where laws actually impact lives. All of these pertain to motoring, only. I do not think that we should wait for public support because if the public supported the “right thing” then we wouldn’t need laws and government. Look at red lights, for example. Many vocal people in the public are very much AGAINST enforcing red light running. This kills a lot of people, and thus, we should figure out what’s “best practice” and not subject our public policy to a weak ass popularity contest where the most obnoxious and loudest contestant wins.

“Education and enforcement, aided by technology as appropriate, can be used to increase compliance.”

Can it? I noticed that this paper promised to be a survey of other papers, but when the authors have a strong personal opinion, they have no problem putting it out there without reference. This is deceptive because their long bibliography gives the impression that the policy has been wholly established by research and this is not true.

Public information and education: This stuff is mostly a waste of time, and mostly a blame game. Education does not make you immune to motorists hopping onto sidewalks and kill you like they do for 10% of the collisions in New York. Proper lane positioning will not protect you from a texting driver of an SUV. And following the laws on when to yield for stop signs and lights will not protect you from motorists who run them. These deaths are all too common and these things will only give people a false sense of pride and confidence with no real safety improvement. Finally, the very existence of these classes can be used to blame victims: if only they were more educated, they would not have died.

Let’s teach the basics to children and move on with our lives. Walking and riding a bicycle, for the average child, is not as complicated as these stupid classes make them out to be.

Facilities and infrastructure: For some strange reasons, we continue to spend more money to expand motoring facilities and infrastructure, but we fail to provide even the basics for cycling and walking. Then we wonder why there are so many dead cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps, if, for a year, we would spend equal amounts of money on all three groups, we could then circle back to see if any other interventions what so ever are necessary. I doubt it

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is so stigmatized by the US government that just having traces of alcohol in anyone involved in an accident will stop the search for other causes of the accident. This, perhaps, has distorted the statistics and artificially inflated the dangers of alcohol.

Mixing alcohol and heavy machinery should be discouraged. Driving drunk is rightfully penalized. However, when heavy machinery is removed, we run little risk to ourselves and others. Perhaps if we were not so in love with automobiles and judgmental of moderate alcohol consumption, we would not be so quick to blame the alcohol and excuse the machines.

About 90% of bicycle collisions do NOT have alcohol involved. Due to these facts, it would be crazy to say that riding sober if more risky. But to suggest that these facts suggest that alcohol makes cycling risky is begging the question.

Conspicuity: This is yet another field day for excusing motorists. If a motorist didn’t’ see a cyclist or pedestrian, we never stop to think if the motorist’s eyes or bad, the motorist isn’t up to the task of motoring, or perhaps we allow people to drive too fast. One standard for motoring should be that one should be prepared to stop at any time. If they hit someone it was because they were not paying attention or they were speeding.

There are many cars that I fail to see because they are black or gray. I suggest that all cars should have alternating dark and reflective stripes on them so that they can be seen in all lighting. It’s unfair to make me wear a yellow vest while trying to avoid getting hit by almost invisible cars.

Older Pedestrians: Unfortunately, the fact that so many elderly people die shows how careless we are for our parents. The elderly and children are the canary in the coal mine. Things should be made safe enough so that even young children or confused elderly people can navigate their environment safety. Anything less would be cruel. The standard is a safe environment and not imprisoning a large part of our population.

Bicycle helmets: These are highly controversial. Again, they are critical for blame shifting of bad motoring practices and design onto cyclists. The research is an ink blot test in which just about any position can be validated by cherry picking studies. The one thing that is consistent with studies is that it has not been demonstrated that mandatory helmet laws increase the popularity of cycling, though the contrary has been demonstrated by several authors.

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