Who is to blame in crashes?

10 NOV 2021
When a crash occurs on a road or street the reporting centres around what happened. A pedestrian was struck. A cyclist was killed. A car swerved... but there are real people behind the headlines, and it is important for reporters to consider their words carefully.

A car struck a pedestrian - that implies one of the two was to blame. Should the headline read "A car driver ploughed into a pedestrian" - or "Pedestrian walks in front of car". This points the finger at human error. It was someone's fault. But why? Neither the pedestrian or driver wished for this to happen, and was it truly their fault?

Certainly the decisions and action each made led to the collision - but so did getting out of bed. But what are the underlying causes for the event occurring? There might be many contributing factors. This Atlantic article - The Deadly Myth That Human Error Causes Most Car Crashes - questions the received wisdom that human error causes crashes.

In the US - a litigious nation - assigning blame to those involved absolves others from liability. And who might these others be? Road Designers, Town Planners, Vehicle Designers, Alcohol Suppliers...

It is important because New Zealand's Road to Zero exhorts us to reduce road deaths and injuries. And if we are to do so we need an honest look at what are the underlying causes so we can change the circumstances.

We need better policies, that reduce the possibility of crashes, and then reduce the severity of injuries. This might mean reducing road speeds, creating walkable Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and better road crossings with raised speed tables to signal speed reductions. The design of roads should reduce the number of "Stroads" (more later on this), and extending the number and reach of protected cycleways.

We need restrictions on the types of vehicles on our roads. Improved visibility from within large vehicles, lighter vehicles... and a reduction in the number of new double cab utes. "Real Tradies use Vans"™. Vehicles need to be designed not just to protect those in vehicles but those outside too.

Europe does a lot of this already and has seen a steady decline in road deaths and injuries, saving thousands of lives and reducing misery. It is astonishing how inured to death that we have become... especially when the changes would have benefits over and above reduction of deaths - more liveable and enjoyable cities would result.

Read the article - well worth the time... as would slowing down when you drive.
By Hab3