General Question

Discobitch's avatar

Theorem: victims of car accidents are a necessary price for progress and comfort?

Asked by Discobitch (522points) October 1st, 2010

Thousands of people die every year in traffic, but nothing is really done about it. Yes, there is this “research” and some laws are applied here and there, but nothing changes the overall situation.

Relatives and friends of car accident victims are looked upon the same way as r&f’s of cancer victims: it sucks, but it does happen.
On the contrary, when a handful of people gets killed by what they call a “terrorist attack”, everyone is suddenly engaged.

So, I postulate this: we gladly accept traffic deaths, since it’s the price we have to pay for our comfort, progress, and liberty.
If we wouldn’t, we would actually do something about it. Which isn’t that hard.

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11 Answers

meiosis's avatar

The idea that nothing changes is false. Here in the UK, road deaths have fallen dramatically despite ever increasing road traffic.

However the number of deaths is still massively higher than those from terrorist attacks, yet inspire nothing like the same urgent response. I think this is partly due to our moral offense at terrorism, and partly down to the idea (illusion) that we are somehow in control when driving and, therefore more able to master our own destiny.

Discobitch's avatar

Where I live, we have some of the worst statistics in our part of the world. We are in fact famous for terrible roads, and it seems like the investments to ameliorate them are squandered.

But when one discusses simple rules that can be thought out that would dramatically decrease the death toll, everyone starts lamenting about their Liberties being curtailed.

Drunk driving is barely illegal here. One can get caught 3–4 times for drunk driving and not be really sued.

meiosis's avatar

Many people here bitch about the so-called “War on Motorists”, but not enough to persuade politicians and officials not to continue making roads safer.

For drink driving, it’s a minimum twelve month ban for a first offence – caught again within ten years and it’s a minimum three year ban, at the end of which you have to prove through bloodtests that you don’t have a drink problem before you can get your licence back.

Whare are you?

Harold's avatar

Governments here in Australia use the road toll as an excuse to extort more money out of motorists. It is statistically proven that speed cameras and radars do nothing to lower the road toll, but proper driver training does. Our driving tests are a joke- lucky to exceed 50km/h on a test. No lessons in car control, either. Police set up radar traps on wide safe roads, where they know they will catch people, rather than the dangerous back roads that are where people actually die. If we were serious about the road toll, we would teach our young adults to drive properly, and actually research what has worked in other parts of the world (eg Germany), rather than just keep finding new ways to fine motorists.

mrentropy's avatar

Isn’t something done about it? Research into making cars safer? Seat belts, air bags, energy absorbing crumple zones, side impact crash bars? Not to mention the computer systems and the ABS brakes and traction control?

Everything besides making drivers better, like @Harold says. I was watching an episode of Top Gear where they were describing the drivers training in Finland (I think), which included driving through high water, skid control tests, and who knows what else.

Fyrius's avatar

What a horrible thought.
I don’t think it’s right, either. If we would suddenly find an easy and convenient way to reduce traffic deaths to zero with no drawbacks, it would be a strange person that would even hesitate for a second.
We won’t lose our progress and comfort if people stop dying in car crashes. It’s not a purchase. If anything, it’s an area where there needs to be more progress and comfort.

The sad state of affairs seems to be that we think of people dying in accidents as normal, while people dying in terrorists attacks are still unexpected and surprising. It’s easier to be momentarily outraged by a new horrible event, than to remain outraged for years on end by something horrible that was already here when we were born.

Kayak8's avatar

As indicated above, car designs are constantly changing to increase safety. Laws are created (if not followed) for where and how children must be placed in a motor vehicle, texting and drinking while driving, etc. New designs for reflectors to alert someone to being in the wrong lane and improved signs with improved visibility all contribute to improved safety on the road.

In my mind, there is a difference between death by terrorist attack and death by motor vehicle accident. While the latter seems possible the former seems unlikely. For me, when I hear of the death of someone in an car accident, I am all too aware of the many things drivers do to create the very circumstances that caused their untimely end (driving too fast, driving drunk, not paying attention, radio too loud to hear, impairment due to lack of sleep, etc.)

In stark contrast, in a terrorist attack, we only blame the terrorists. No fault is placed on the victim. It is very easy to stir up indignation when anger can be so easily directed outward and the victim(s) is blameless.

Safer cars, the actual redesign of highway on and off ramps, laws, and seat-belts have all served to reduce traffic fatalities rather dramatically over the years. Be careful when you review the data because the numbers of drivers and cars have also increased over the years. Don’t look at raw numbers of traffic deaths but rather at the number of deaths as a rate per x number of cars on the road in given place and time. Perhaps few died being in or struck by a Model T, but there were few on the road and even a single death would have been significant.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I disagree, and I agree with @meiosis. In the US auto traffic in general, registered vehicles on the road and driver-miles have skyrocketed since I started driving. Yet annual fatalities have often been declining. Fatalities due to drunk driving have decreased dramatically. Publicity and laws against drunk driving, and technologies to detect it, have increased awareness, enforcement, penalties and improved attitudes among the general public in terms of all of those things.

Meanwhile, automakers have been scrambling to improve crash-avoidance technology, vehicle crash resistance and cabin integrity, and air bags as a last resort.

I agree that we will probably always accept some level of fatality as nearly inevitable, but we do keep trying to drive that lower through education, attitude improvement and law enforcement, as well as highway construction itself (to a lesser degree, since that is so hugely expensive and slow).

marinelife's avatar

What would you do about it? Why do you think nothing is being done about it?

Air bags, anti-lock brakes and many other safety innovations have been made.

Cars are being made safer all the time. We are moving toward a time when cars will autopilot themselves or take over in an emergency.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I somewhat agree, i think. They (whoever they are) are not strict enough on drivers – it is actually a very dangerous activity, but it’s not treated as such.
As for safer cars, it’s unfortunate that accidents usually have to happen to inspire these safer cars…usually one never thinks of a particular solution to unknowable, speculated future problems until that problem happens, and then only can a solution (ie particular safety) be invented or improved.

mattbrowne's avatar

Complexity is the mother of unpredictability.

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