Article on government scare tactics and blaming changing public attitudes and thinking!

Florida’s official culture of driving blames pedestrians (and cellphones) for “vast majority” of deaths

This article on TreeHugger is so important in several different directions. I have been especially interested in the corporate funding and misdirection of public interest org’s. We saw years ago MADD mounted a campaign to remove the right to sue from the passengers of drinking drivers and continued enforcement scare campaigns long after they would statistically give much in return. It turned out the largest source of funding for the organization was General Motors Corporation and their board vice chairman was also a GM executive. Blaming car drivers and not seeking more effective remedies served a hidden corporate agenda. Most fatal victims of drunk drivers were the passengers of drunk drivers, the folks MADD claimed they represented. It seemed it was not worthwhile to redesign cars to better perform in crashes or to remove roadside obstacles or to sue carmakers for these tragedies. Police departments had adopted the scare campaigns so MADD had many more cost-effective solutions they could have pursued.

It seems this scare blame tactic or mind control (scary) depends on the size or the lack of a vehicle. Truck crash fatalities are the cars fault. Car involved pedestrian and bike fatalities are the fault of the smaller and less protected victim. Corporate funding will seek the most influential and profitable market, which in the U.S. increasingly involves SUV’s. We see especially now corporate and government safety org’s and campaign’s. One of the largest involves distracted driving pushing a fear campaign while ignoring government safety regulation of cell phones and dash mounted distractions. One wonders if the hidden campaign has something to do with whom to sue and misdirection to protect vehicle manufacturers from unwanted safety regulation?

Another example of government and corporate partnerships and so-called safety org’s was called the No-Zone Campaign. You had blind spots on the side and rear of big trucks. If you were killed in a crash with the side or rear of a truck you were of course at fault. You must be afraid, very afraid! It was the car drivers fault that these blind spots existed. It was never shared with the public that convex mirrors and training truck drivers how to use mirrors properly or even how to signal before changing lanes were cheaper and more effective solutions. We are still fighting for mirrors and cameras on big trucks when these items are extremely cheap compared to the cost of crashes which is the real message. The cost of crashes is born by the motoring public and taxpayers. Even small expenditures by billion dollar trucking conglomerates is not cost competitive with shifting costs to others by political donations and hidden message campaigns.

This corporate public partnership took off during the Clinton years. They were looking for more corporate support for the Democratic political party and candidates. It was common for government websites like the DOT to only link to corporations and associations that supported policies and candidates with funding. I mounted a campaign thru the Underride Network to pressure the Clinton administration to also link to public interest org’s like the Underride Network and Public Citizen. Our government finally started linking to other groups and as part of our request we asked for links to the IMPACT Project in Brazil which was mounting an internet based safety education campaign and leading efforts for a new underride guard regulation in that country. I was told by the leader of that campaign that the last two legislative holdouts that were needed to pass the new law were convinced by the U.S. government linking to the Brazilian safety campaign. The U.S. government without effort or cost had saved thousands of lives in Brazil and fueled efforts such as increased regulations in Canada.

The answer to all of this is shared responsibility, efforts, and costs and a little truth-telling and maybe internet freedom. We have wonderful efforts like Vision Zero arguing to save lives first and forget about fear and blame. Just do whatever works, what saves lives! Yes, drunk drivers are not good safety citizens but is the problem blame or decreasing the harm they cause. Do you redesign cars with better crash protection and place crash cushions or barriers around roadside trees which kill lot’s of DUI victims or do you find comfort in name calling and punishment while people continue dying? Do you shift costs from corporations and insurance companies onto an uninformed public by banning lawsuits and removing corporate responsibility and leaving the tab to taxpayers.

This article talks about 15 mph maximum survival speed for crashes between pedestrians and motor vehicles. It seems rather than just scaring the public and blaming pedestrians for their own deaths or misdirecting blame to cell phone walking we might look at other options. We might shift our motor vehicle purchases from poorly designed and heavy vehicles to softer and better engineered designs. I leave it to TreeHugger to educate us on the technological solutions that might give us lighter and more forgiving vehicles. I fear for problems like shortages of aluminum but I have faith in new technology. We have steel and aluminum alloys that are high-strength and lower weight and would use less aluminum. We have 3D printing and engineered high-strength plastics and fiberglass and maybe we could mix in metal fibers to increase strength, think spider webs. The problem is the higher mass and stiffer vehicle will cause the most damage. Lighter and softer vehicles allow higher speed survival. Large vehicle crash research effort in Europe called APROSYS found by shaping and softening the front of vehicles you could reduce the risk for injuries to head and lower extremities by up to 97% at impact velocities of up to 40 km/h (25 mph). Shape the vehicle front to direct the victim away from the vehicle rather than underneath it! 25 mph roads in cities are more acceptable than 15 mph roads! You can find some links to eye-opening research studies on this issue at https://underridenetwork.org/why-front-underride-or-underrun-is-important . You should also investigate softened hood design on cars and air bag bumpers etc.

We can design better intersections and use roundabouts to reduce speeds, you can find some intersection articles at IIHS. We need side guards and audible victim detection warning systems on large vehicles. We need internet freedom that gives equal weight to small citizen efforts and corporate funded org’s. WE need to end “fake news” and that includes government sponsored safety messages, campaigns, and corporate sponsorships. We need to understand how scare campaigns affect public perception and thinking! We need to understand public interest org’s increasing reliance on corporate funding and hidden agendas to support fund-raising efforts. The link to the page at http://www.ghsa.org/about/associate-members is eye-opening. We have issues in truck safety with increasing control of safety issues by insurance and vehicle oriented interests such as AAA, IIHS, and the National Safety Council. The latter is involved in a government partnership campaign that uses claimed Vision Zero messages to blame victims and driver behavior, propaganda that directly contradicts the Vision Zero philosophy. We have IIHS sponsoring Truck Underride Roundtables and controlling message and whom can attend electronically. Disclosure after twenty years leading U.S. underride safety activism I could not even see the online presentation and of course could not participate. They have now given awards for stiff low-speed underride guards that are less effective than guard designs on the road in the 1990’s. We also have The Truck Safety Coalition involved in this controlled Underride Roundtable and giving awards for stiff guards opposed by victims for 25 years and that only protect in low-speed crashes that tend not to kill anyway. High-speed crashes kill unless you are a pedestrian or unprotected road user.

I hope to see many more thought-provoking articles like this one on safety issues and hidden messages. We have had the wettest March in history in the Pacific Northwest so electric bikes do not work for everyone. I wish I could power up my light weight vehicles with my air compressor but that is another dream!