When I was a child, (60 years ago, at least) I often dreamt of roads having wires implanted into the pavement that a magnet could follow to keep everybody in their own lane. This made so much sense to me because everywhere I looked, I could see multiple wires cluttering the sky for electricity, telephone and in those days, the telegraph. I knew it could be done, obviously affordable – why wasn’t it?
Since those days, I have often thought of solutions to critical problems that keep killing people on our highways. Little by little, I see those things coming into existence and wonder why I never made any money promoting them. You know what I’m talking about. Things like ABS brakes (initially on aircraft), electronic stability programs, lane stabilizers, vehicles that can sense what’s ahead and stop before impact, etc. Instead of governments changing traffic control by manipulating the roadbeds, they’ve left it up to vehicle manufacturers to react with individual and separate solutions.
Before a fellow by the name of Ralph Nader came along and opened his mouth, none of these things were even considered. He really embarrassed governments and manufacturers into action. Still, things happen that can be avoided. People make mistakes. If there is a means whereby technology can overcome human error, then it should be utilized quickly.
Take, for instance, the number of high vehicles that continue to hit low bridges. An electronic eye, suspended some distance ahead, slightly lower than the obstruction could divert higher vehicles avoiding the route altogether using traffic controls. Usually, trucks suffer physical damage but, double-decker buses (more of them travelling on North American roads these days) cost lives.
It’s taken many years but finally, the majority of the population are using seat belts. The “but” here, is that seat belts could be designed a whole lot better. Speak to any race car driver or compare their crash fatality statistics.
Speaking of race cars, have you ever heard of “roof crush”? So many, many automobiles are designed with roofs that will not withstand the car’s own weight. We’re not talking convertibles, here. People inside die – why? Are you aware that the little “Fortwo” Smart car has a cage built all around it like a race car for the occupant’s protection? So, why isn’t this mandatory for all vehicles?
From my perspective, vehicle occupant safety is a result of a whole lot of things. If you have a vehicle that has been constructed with safety in mind, run it on roads that were constructed with a safety mentality then, taking a trained operator, who is actually paying attention and thinking about what he or she is doing, you still have enormous risk to overcome.
Human error is still the largest factor in road crashes and it takes a fraction of a second to happen. If you are human then, it could be your life changing error.
Fleet Safety Council’s Safe Driver of the Year for 2017 was Mike Lotakow. He tells me that he was initially trained in Poland where the course to drive tractor-trailer is two years long. Are we Canadians, the have-all country of North America, missing something here?
From an engineering standpoint, I see the Ontario Government going backward. Have you noticed the number of onramps that have been removed from secondary roads in this province in recent years? Pretty well all intersections these days must come to a complete stop before turning right. Yesterday’s ease-on ramps, with yield signs, that kept traffic moving have disappeared.
So, are my ideas practical? Over the years, I have written to various government officials (mostly Ontario) with suggestions as to how to minimize danger on our roads. Sometimes I get a response from (usually) my local politician stating that my message will be forwarded to the Minister responsible and that’s it. Nothing ever happens. The only change that has ever been made through my contribution was the addition of the extra lane leading from the EB 403 to the NB 407. They really screwed that one up. There was a lot of carnage before they took action. That was a big push from the public. Have you considered the stupid, convoluted EB Niagara exit at that same interchange?
Governments ignore the findings of their own Inquests. The government orders Inquests, they conduct them, they insist on recommendations and then, they ignore them. It’s like another trial that the victims have to go through without closure. From what I see, it’s mostly governmental fraudulent deception.
From what I can see, it takes huge movements of citizens to get action from the government, something the size of the Humboldt Bronco’s bus crash or the white Ryder van incident in Toronto, otherwise “safety” is just another word.
Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.
THINK SAFETY ……… EVERYWHERE ……….. ALL THE TIME
About the Author
Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions
Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.
As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.
Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council