Thursday, April 19, 2012

Car-truck fatalities, get that stat right

About 12 years ago, I interviewed a guy named Dan Blower, a researcher with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. He was the guy whose study revealed that most of the car-truck fatalities were not the fault of the trucker. Yes. THAT guy.

Dan warned me that when we used that statistic, we needed to be sure to get it right. He figured many people would give it an inaccurate twist. While 75 percent of car-truck fatalities are not the trucker’s fault, it does not mean that it is the fault of the four-wheeler. It could have been due to weather, deer in the road, whatever.

Dan’s prediction was right on the money. I see the inaccuracy repeated frequently. Just today, I read it in a major transportation newsletter.

He also told me something that knocked me out. He said that even if truckers NEVER made an error, if the truckers NEVER operated in an unsafe manner, if they were all perfect – only a minority of the car-truck fatal crashes would be eliminated.

This is a fact our government and our safety advocates can’t seem to get a grip on.

Why is that so hard to understand? And why can’t we keep this in mind when we are expending such massive sums and creating such efforts to make trucks toe the safety mark?

I don’t see one-fourth of that effort aimed at the documented more dangerous drivers like elderly drivers who should have parked it years ago, or inexperienced teenagers who race up and down the highway every day with radios booming, three in front and four in the back, no seat belts, zipping in and out of traffic.

If we want to reduce car-truck crashes, the nation needs to place appropriate balance on improving the actions of the OTHER vehicles on the road.