In Hawaii, as most place in the U.S., traffic fatalities are taken as something of a given. Consider, last year more than 30,000 people died in motor vehicle accident in the U.S. There were the usual comments that we should “do more” to reduce these deaths and that these fatalities extract a high price across the American economy, and there is much nodding in agreement.
And then we go about are business and forget the discussion in the next ten minutes. Besides, we have made such great progress, reducing car accident fatalities from their much higher levels in the 1980s. We slap ourselves on the back and share congratulations for having safer cars and highways and greatly reducing the social acceptance of once normative behavior, like drunk driving.
When we compare traffic and vehicle safety with air travel, however, the congratulations seem somewhat hollow. Last year, no passengers died on a U.S. commercial aircraft. Zero.
Oh, some would argue, we cannot afford to do more to stop highway deaths, it would be too expensive. Ah, but the National Safety Council estimates our current practice cost $3.3 billion in 2011 alone.
Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) argues we can do the same with motor vehicles. She states bluntly, “All of these crashes are avoidable.” From drunk driving, speeding and distracted driving, with proper care and attention, they could all be prevented.
She called impaired driving “epidemic” and noted that distracted driving fatalities are probably underreported, because often the driver is killed. If a vehicle goes off the road, it may not be obvious that the person was distracted, and the cause of the accident may appear to be that they were speeding or driving too fast for the weather conditions.
Source: TimeDispatch.com, “Goal: Zero highway deaths, NTSB chairman urges at Virginia Distracted Driving Summit in Henrico,” Peter Bacque, September 21, 2013