NTSB Safety Compass has not Published my Reply to their “Best Days of Their Lives” Blog, but it’s Important

One week ago, on July 10, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] published their periodic “Safety Compass” blog.  The post in question was called “Best Days of Their Lives” and is very good, in relation to the safety of young drivers.

Photograph of two roadside memorials, on opposite sides of a rural road, and from two separate crashes.
Not one but two memorials for young people, from two separate crashes on either side of the road at this location in Illinois. Photo: Copyright 2012.

Excerpt: “… [This is] the beginning of the ‘100 Deadliest Days’—the driving season in which crashes involving teens ages 16 to 19 years old increase significantly. Youth drivers are getting behind the wheel with cellphones in hand or drowsy from long, summer nights.

“Our Most Wanted List strives to end alcohol and other drug impairment, distraction, and fatigue‑related accidents, and calls for stronger occupant protection; during the 100 Deadliest Days, young drivers are often faced with many of the challenges included on the Most Wanted List, which makes the collaboration between the NTSB and youth‑serving organizations so vital…”

These are, of course, extremely valid and important points but given how astonishingly far the USA is behind the road safety performance of virtually every other developed nation in the world, I would respectfully suggest that even more needs to be done, so that areas where America is very clearly a long way behind international standards and best practices may be swiftly improved and so that U.S. road deaths — which are currently increasing at an unprecedented and terrible rate — may be turned around and significantly reduced.

This is my reply that, for whatever reason, did not make it through ‘moderation’ and onto the NTSB blog page:

“Very valuable, but in addition it really is high time that all state drivers manuals in the USA were brought fully up to date with global best practices so that young drivers no longer have their heads filled with archaic, inaccurate or even dangerous ‘advice’. It is now over ten years since the paper “State Drivers Manuals Can Kill Your Kids”  was published by the SAE at their 2007 World Congress, in Detroit (and won an ‘excellence’ award from audience feedback) but precious little has changed in that time.”

 

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 2

Continued from: Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 1

In a post on April 25, 2016, titled “Your Car is a Public Health Tool” on the NTSB Safety Compass blog, NTSB Vice Chairman Dr. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr wrote about the number of road deaths suffered by the USA.

Excerpts (in their original sequence)

  1. “…[The] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S.’s public health agency, declared Motor Vehicle Safety one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th Century…”
  2. “In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.”
  3. “With the vision of a future with no motor vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries, it’s important that we continue to improve crash prevention technologies, while also striving for advances in technologies to improve vehicle crashworthiness, especially as it relates to occupant protection.”

I must address point #2 first because frankly it makes a mockery of point #1, quote: “In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.”  But no they didn’t — not even remotely!

U.S. road deaths were still at 41,945 in the year 2000 and remained above 40,000 per year until 2008 (n=37,261, which equates to a staggering, 40 percent error).  That is by no means a part of the “last few decades of the 20th Century!”   Then, inline with the recession, the number of deaths per year did start to fall dramatically, as road travel also fell due to the financial situation.  Interestingly, many official bodies in the US road safety arena at this point started claiming that their respective programs had been tremendously successful and were indubitably responsible for the significantly reduced numbers of deaths.  Perhaps nobody had taught these people that recessions cause such reductions in deaths and that when the recession ended the number of deaths could be expected to rise again.  And boy, has it ever!

But there is one other point to be made:  At no point in this period did the annual road deaths fall as low as the “30,000” claimed in point #2, above.  According to ITS/IRTAD, the lowest figure was 32,479 (2011), so this in turn represents an eight percent error. This may seem insignificant but it was a very undesirable exaggeration, it never materialized, and was certainly unscientific!

So now lets go back to the first point above, the CDC claim that “Motor-Vehicle Safety [was] A 20th Century Public Health Achievement,” and the fact that the NTSB has seen fit to promote this claim on its blog. Really, NTSB (and CDC, too)?  Both of your organizations must surely be aware that since at least the 1970s the USA has fallen further and further back, behind the much greater road safety improvements made by virtually every other developed nation in the world — greater rates of improvement and in some cases death rates that are now less than one-quarter of the rate in the USA.

To illustrate America’s poor rate of progress, one can turn to the ITS/OECD/IRTAD database 2009 — Long-term Trends, “Road User fatalities” for 1980, 1990, 2000… and [2007].”  This shows that in 1980, the USA suffered 51,091 road deaths and in 2007 the number was down to 41,059 a reduction of 19.6 percent.  This sounds quite good until one looks at the percentage reductions for the following countries over the same period:

  1. Switzerland . . . . . . . . -68.2%
  2. Germany . . . . . . . . . .. -67.1%
  3. France . . . . . . . . . . . .. -65.8%
  4. Austria . . . . . . . . . . . . -65.5%
  5.  Netherlands . . . . . . .. -64.5%
  6.  Portugal . . . . . . . . . .. -62.2%
  7.  Luxembourg . . . . . . .. -56.1%
  8.  Belgium . . . . . . . . . . . -55.5%
  9.  Australia . . . . . . . . . .. -50.6%
  10.  Great Britain . . . . . . . -50.5%
  11.  Slovenia . . . . . . . . . . . -47.5%
  12.  Canada . . . . . . . . . . . . -47.0%
  13.  Sweden . . . . . . . . . . .. -44.5%
  14.  Italy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -44.3%
  15.  Japan . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.7%
  16.  Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.4%
  17.  Denmark . . . . . . . . . . -41.2%
  18.  Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.1%
  19.  Iceland . . . . . . . . . . .. -40.0%
  20.  Norway . . . . . . . . . . . -35.6%
  21.  Finland . . . . . . . . . . . -31.0%
  22.  New Zealand . . . . . .. -29.3%
  23.  Hungary . . . . . . . . . . -24.4%
  24.  United States . . . . . . -19.6%
  25.  Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . – 7.0%
  26.  Korea . . . . . . . . . . . . . – 4.4%
  27.  Czech Republic . . . . . – 3.1%
  28.  Greece . . . . . . . . . . . . +14.6%

The countries finishing from 1st to 6th achieved more than three-times the improvement than did the USA, those from 7th to 10th more than 2.5-times more, and those from 11th to 19th did at least twice as well.  Does anybody want to elaborate now about how on earth the comparatively poor performance by the USA is in any way the stated “20th Century public health achievement?”  Such a claim, for such comparatively poor success, could easily be dismissed as mere propaganda.

Finally, there is no fault with the point #3, above, but it is effectively indisputable that the USA has fallen so far behind the rest of the developed world in this crucial field of road safety because the country has been far, far too introspective and has ignored all of the advances made elsewhere and how they have been achieved.  Relying solely on technological advances that may still be a long way off in coming to full fruition is a weak-kneed approach.  Many American lives undoubtedly can be saved  by the USA immediately opening its eyes to other countries’ far greater success and emulating the methods used, without trying to re-invent the wheel and making a mess of it, as it has done — for example — in relation to America’s recent adoption and best-practice use of modern roundabouts (a failing of the FHWA)!

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

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Go back to: Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 1

See: Officials Mislead America About Highway Safety (article from 2003)