The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants you to know that “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes.” (Source: Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians, April 2014.)
And they’re doing something about it, too.
While other aspects of driving safety continue to improve, pedestrian fatalities due to traffic crashes are up eight percent since 2009.
Perhaps if pedestrians stopped placing themselves in front of objects with mass traveling at speed? I may not be as smart as the federal government but that seems like a big part of the problem to me.
Physics has got to physics, yo know? Physics has no desire to play nice, do what’s fair, be compassionate, take sides, or even attempt to adhere to the rules of good form. Like Dr. Momma used to say, “physics does what physics does.” It’s apolitical. Asexual, too, but if you disrespect physics it will fuck you over.
The NHTSA’s solution is one with real traction. Make $2 million in grant money available to cities with high rates of pedestrian deaths. Because, money can buy you love. The money is to be used to “influence the safety of pedestrians through public education and enforcement initiatives.”
Yeah, that’ll work.
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Today, I’m back for more of the same, but this time without the aggression. This time I have the solution.
Google and the like may be feverishly pouring millions (billions?) into pie-in-the-sky dreams about cars that can drive themselves. Ostensibly this will solve the hit-and-run problem once and for all. I hope they spare a few subroutines for things like hit-and-run morality. (With embedded advertising, of course.) Perhaps a Fourth Law of Robotics? “This robot will not allow asshole human beings to override operation after an accident in an attempt to break the law. Check out the hot deals on polar fleece at Old Navy.”
One can dream.
Meanwhile, we need a solution in the here and now. We can’t afford to wait.
What I propose is simple: A federal law that mandates installation of an Accident Reporting Device (ARD) in all vehicles. This device will, when an accident is detected, immediately communicate, via satellite, the following information to a national law enforcement database:
- Unique vehicle ID
- GPS coordinates
- Collected accident data (location on vehicle, type of impact, force of impact, etc.)
The law will be written in such a way that operating a motor vehicle with an ARD that has been tampered with or disabled in any way will be a serious crime. This will be treated in similar fashion to refusal to submit to a sobriety test.
When vehicles are stopped by law enforcement they shall have the authority to conduct an inspection of the ARD to ensure compliance. This is similar to the authority to ask for proof of insurance.
Costs of the ARD program will be passed on to consumers.
Vehicles will be required to pass ARD compliance testing every 24 months before vehicle registration is issued.
Any ARD compliance violation will result in suspension of driving privileges for one year (or more for each subsequent violation).
The purpose of the program is to give law enforcement a simple yet powerful tool to fight crimes like hit-and-run. In the event of an accident involving hit-and-run, the database can be checked to easily determine which vehicles were involved. The database may have other uses, like identifying vehicles involved in large incidents, etc.
Some might raise objections to a program like this on privacy grounds or that it creates more bureaucracy. Both are legitimate concerns.
Regarding privacy, the program is mostly non-invasive in that it only “pings” during an event and the law should be written with privacy in mind. (For example, the database can only be queried, by law enforcement, when certain criteria is met.) Further, since the ARD only reports during an accident, privacy concerns are minimal. The ARDs shall be designed and constructed in such a way “on-demand” or continuous tracking is impossible.
As with all bureaucracy, the question becomes one of cost (both money and rights) vs. public benefit. I would argue that a program like this is minimal in cost while providing almost incalculable benefit. The cost of doing nothing is to continue to allow those responsible for death, serious injury and property damage to have an opportunity to escape unchecked. Approximately ten percent of all vehicle accidents in the United States currently involve hit-and-run. Some of them are never solved.
It’s just that simple. Problem solved. You’re welcome.