Sunday, November 27, 2011
How's Your Driving? I Can Show You the Video.
Occasionally, I watch a television show called Mayday. It tells the stories of transportation disasters using the accounts of survivors and accident investigators. Most of the episodes concern airline crashes.
In Canada and elsewhere, airline pilots are highly trained professionals. Safety authorities investigate accidents thoroughly for the purpose of preventing them. Placing blame is not considered a primary goal. Airline safety has made airline travel, from what I remember hearing on numerous occasions, the safest mode of transportation on the planet.
What does this tell me? You don't solve these problems by placing blame. You solve problems and save lives by studying failures and looking for common threads between them.
Taking a look at the airline industry, we can draw other conclusions. Pilot error is still a significant cause of airline accidents. A number of times on Mayday, accident investigators have concluded that pilot error occurs far more frequently if pilots are under pressure as a result of being behind schedule. Even these extremely well trained professionals are subject to the effects of trying to rush.
Drivers are not held to standards anywhere near that of an airline pilot. Generally, if a driver faces an accident or loss of control it will be on the road, in a real conditions. Airline pilots, on the other hand, have to train regularly in simulators so that they know how to react to a huge number of disaster scenarios.
Why are cars different? If an airliner crashes, we hear of hundreds of deaths. However, if a car crashes, we hear of a just a few. Also, because we see the car as a necessary part of our lives, we expect to use them just like we live our lives, with as few restrictions as possible. We drive our cars like they are our own personal space. In the worst cases, drivers who feel like their personal space has been violated, act out in episodes of road rage.
How else is driving different from flying? Far more people in this country die every year, on average, in motor vehicle accidents than in aviation disasters. So why aren't we horrified? I suspect it is because we feel that making this simple realization means we lose that personal space. Well, that space was never personal in the first place. A belief which is contrary to reality is know as a delusion. Delusions are one of the debilitating symptoms of the worst mental illnesses. Think about that.
There is another interesting caparison to think about. One criminal activity that horrifies us the most is murder. If you look at Statistics Canada data for cause of death in Canada for 2000 to 2008, roughly eight to ten times more people are killed in motor vehicle accidents than by murder. Again, why are we so horrified by murder and not by deadly motor vehicle accidents? Death is death regardless of how it happens. Families still lose loved ones. Again, we consider driving as personal and no one wants to think that they have a real chance of killing someone.
Here is another reality check. If you get behind the wheel, you are operating machinery that can kill if operated improperly. If a parent were to leave a child unattended in a dangerous situation and that child died, they would likely be charged with criminal negligence causing death. If you happen to break a traffic regulation, no matter how minor it seems, have an accident, and kill someone, you are absolutely no different. You're a criminal.
For the most part, we resent the expectation that we have to drive according to rules. Well, we do. Just like airline pilots, permission to drive is given to an individual based on qualification. We pass a driving test and we are granted a licence, just like a pilot is granted a licence to operate a plane. If we don't live up to our responsibility as drivers, that permission can and is taken away. No one seems to complain when a drunk driver has his or her licence revoked.
So, when you drive down my street under license and you break the law, if I continue to become frustrated and angry about how you ignore my right to the enjoyment of my public space, just hope i haven't yet decided to protect it. I don't drive around your cul-de-sacs at 80km/h. After being hit on the sidewalk in sight of my front door, I now have more free time than I know what to do with. I may just choose some of that time and use it to my benefit. I have a wonderful camera with great video quality. It is quite capable of accurately recording your licence place. Also, with that camera, I can prove, with a little simple trigonometry, exactly how fast you are going. I may choose random times to hide and record your activities in my public space so you'll never know when you can get away with it. You had better start believing it is a public space soon, too, because the law is on MY side. I can catch you when you cross the centre line and pass someone trying to park, as required by law, by backing into their driveway. I can't wait to be responsible for the ticket you get for using your cell phone. No? I can't do that? Just after the prohibition on cellphone use was passed, Danny Williams, himself, was spotted using his phone while driving. Once he was reported, he was charged and, shortly after, paid the fine. If Danny Williams, with a considerable legal knowledge, knew he was caught red handed, do you really think you have a chance? I have a lot of other experience with poor drivers in my neighbourhood, too. You'll never know what may piss me of and make me think of my camera. I'll give you a hint, though; I know the rules of the road pretty well.
Update: I just found @BadDriversNL on Twitter. Glad I'm not alone!