Safety and fallibility

Problems faced by children which reduce their freedom

Safety and fallibility

Postby Andre Engels » Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:57 pm

I like watching "Air Crash Investigation", showing historical crashes and near-crashes of airplanes, the investigation in their causes and the result of those. One episode I somewhat remember and want to notice here was a plane that crashed short before landing somewhere in the northeastern US. It was found that the plane had met some not uncommon problem (I think it was turbulence when they had just started descending) and the pilots had reacted to that wrongly (pushed the nose down when they should have pulled it up, or something). What they did not do at that time was say "pilot error" and close the books. Instead it was found that the pilots had not been sleeping for over 24 hours, and thus the cause was brought to "fatigue", and measures were taken to avoid such pilot fatigue in the future. In another episode, the checklist before take-off was made variable, so that pilots would be less likely to just fill them up automatically and accidentally put a 'checked' in where that was not the case.
The reason that I am bringing it up here, is of course that I see a parallel to road safety. People are fallible, they will not always follow the rules and are prone to make mistakes. Real traffic safety will take this into account. Either by making the mistake less likely (for example, by adding speed limiting infrastructure in areas with lower maximum speed), or by making them less likely to cause problems (for example, if you don't have cyclists just across the left side of a traffic lane used by HGV, it is less likely that some HGV overstepping the line will hit a cyclist).
Another point from Air Crash Investigation I want to put forward is that not only accidents are investigated, but also cases that got close but ended good. A plane plunging into the sea is an incident, but a plane dropping a mile but then having the pilots regain control of it is as well. The important point here is that a traffic death can be avoided at many levels - and there is a difference, the earlier the level where it is avoided, the better:
1. Most of these cases are two-sided accidents, with two or more parties involved. Level 1 is the avoidance of interactions - full segregation (in space and/or time) will mean no interaction, no interaction means no accident, no accident means no harm or death.
2. When there is an interaction, if it is solved without stress or conflict, again problems are resolved. If one party gives priority or moves away well in time, again no accident will occur
3. When the interaction is not amicably resolved, it might still be resolved without actual accident. This would be the case if they managed to swerve away without actually coming into contact.
4. When there is an accident, serious harm may be avoided. An impact at low velocity, even if the previous steps have failed, will in most cases not lead to serious harm, for example.
5. When there is serious harm, there is still a difference between a hit that will cause a few days of hospitalization and one that causes death or lifelong disability.
As said, what should usually be tried is avoiding an accident at level 1 or 2. That's where most Air Crash Investigation episodes focus on - could it be avoided that there's ice on that wing, could the pilots be prepared before getting into that thundercloud? Still, the other levels also have their place - one time the main issue was that the plane had not been evacuated fast enough in a crash with fire (that's level 5 for you).
These levels give another reason why bicycle helmets would be very low on the list of traffic safety measures: They are typically level 5, avoiding death or serious brain damage when there is already a serious accident. We don't want traffic accidents to become survivable if instead we could make them not occur at all.
Andre Engels
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:05 am

Re: Safety and fallibility

Postby Bryce P » Fri Sep 06, 2013 9:47 am

Exactly Andre. Transport agencies around the world have developed standards to keep motor vehicle occupants as safe as possible. Witness the development of Armco, wider lanes, the removal of roadside trees, gentle radius on corners, cats eyes, and the list goes on. Billions of dollars just on these features alone. Even speed limits are more about keeping cars away from cars rather than other road users. Why is it so difficult then for the same people to accept that pedestrians and cyclists deserve the same kind of attention to preventing serious crashes?
Bryce P
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:24 am

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