Crocodile Tears (Cost/Benefit Analysis) & Vision Zero Goal of No Crash Fatalities

There were so many factors that caused our road journey on May 4, 2013, to end in 2 crash fatalities. I have written about that before: .

In our quest to help prevent countless more lives from being foreverchanged, we have come up against the brick wall of attitudes which appear callous and too-accepting of crash deaths as an inevitable outcome of highway travel.

It is refreshing, therefore, to hear others who hold a different outlook and are bold to pursue it.

“Crocodile Tears for Heavy Vehicle Safety,” by George Rechnitzer, GR Crocodile_Tears for Heavy Vehicle Safety 2004

George starts out by saying, “. . .a front page feature caught my attention regarding: ‘community outrage’ following Australia’s well known crocodile man Steve Irwin holding his one-month old baby in one hand and feeding a large crocodile with the other. His response at such apparent community outrage and concern over the safety of his infant was that he was more worried about the safety of the baby travelling in a car than being eaten by a croc. I thought he had a point. . .

“Thinking of crocodiles, it also reminded me, once again, in this new year, of ‘crocodile tears’ being shed in some quarters over road safety, but little being done about conspicuous and well known causes of hundreds of fatalities and serious injuries on Australia’s roads every year–that is, crashes involving heavy vehicles and other road users.

“The biggest obstacle to improved heavy vehicle safety is a system that encourages and enables bureaucrats, regulators, and safety exponents, to hide behind mindless cost-benefit calculations to avoid requiring known and effective design improvements to heavy vehicles*. Yes, cost-benefit analysis indeed is the main culprit. In this regard, it is my opinion that Sweden has got it right, with their Vision Zero philosophy [13], which states that, ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society.'”

George goes on to say, “So what cost-benefit analyses really means, is that when no action is taken to improve the design of heavy vehicles, people’s lives are being traded for reduced transport costs.”

“The Swedish Approach to Road Safety: The Accident is Not the Major Problem,” by Sarah Goodyear,“The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into ‘zero.’ Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.

‘The problem is the whole transport sector is quite influenced by the whole utilitarianist mindset. Now we’re bringing in the idea that it’s not acceptable to be killed or seriously injured when you’re transporting. It’s more a civil-rights thing that you bring into the policy.”

(* My note: For example, improved rear underride guards, side underride guards, front underride guards. mwkarth)

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