Introducing Haddon: Vehicular Cycling and the Book of Job

Hands down, one of the best safety researchers ever, is William Haddon MD.

Good stuff. Let’s look at one of his papers: “Energy Damage and 10 Countermeasure Strategies”


Today, these finds are commonly know as the Haddon Matrix. []

“The Haddon Matrix is the most commonly used paradigm in the injury prevention field.”

I’ll just summarize this but suffice it to say to call those in danger “stupid” or “uneducated” is not on his list. It mainly talks about controlling the agent (in cycling the “agent of death” is most likely cars) and controlling the interaction between the agent and the host (aka dedicated cycling infrastructure).

He also speaks of the Book of Job and divine punishment. It seems that Vehicular Cyclists believe in this kind of thing: “The suffering of oneself or some group is divine and well deserved punishment. Therefore sins can be expiated by appropriate change in behavior, it may be ‘too bad’, but there is nothing else to be done to ameliorate the personally or societally undersirable happening unless its an increase in efforts at human reform.”

Think about this next time you here Keri, from Savvy Cycling talking about changes in “beliefs” or “behavior”. Or when we hear about “scofflaw” or “uneducated” cyclists who “deserved what they got.”

Perhaps there’s more that can be done to make the future safer than to hope for the Great Pumpkin of an Educated Populace. Haddon thought so and he’s credited for saving over 5,000 a lives a year by changing things besides behavior, which he thought was of secondary importance, mainly because it does not work.


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