Comment 37516

By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted January 28, 2010 at 10:35:14

Engineer people to be safer, not roads.

In the 1950's to 70's the US auto lobby, dead set against such engineering controls as seatbelts and gas tanks that didn't explode, used essentially the same mantra in campaigns against mandatory automobile safety legislation. In essence:

Engineer people to be safer, not cars

They even advocated road safety engineering as being superior to vehicle safety in preventing accidents:

Engineer roads to be safer, not cars

Well that was a fail. Policymakers, evidently unconvinced of the superior logic of 'engineering people', crossed cars off the list first. The design process for cars today basically revolves around safety - the whole structure of the car is designed to crumple on impact in such a way that maximizes energy absorption. Cars can crash faster and harder before killing or injuring their occupants.

So we got the cars figured out, made them as safe as we could, but those god damn stupid people keep figuring out ways to kill themselves with them. Like driving faster.

In the last 50 years road engineering has given us more lanes, wider and faster roads, enabling higher speeds while simultaneously bringing more vehicles onto the roads. The typical suburban arterial road is designed for a maximum speed of 80km/h, but signed at 50-60km/h speed limit. We engineer roads for speed, and people for safety. Does it work?

Current road design practices have been doing exactly as crtsvg suggests - "Engineering people to be safer, not roads." The "road warriors" - those with interests in maintaining high vehicle speeds in urban areas, are still using the same argument that so badly failed the automakers 50 years ago. Blame people (which are by nature unpredictable and fallible - they cannot be changed) not design (which can be changed). What was that definition of insanity again?

As soon as we figure out how to engineer people, the rest will be a snap! Hey, we can also engineer them not to murder, steal, or start wars! Dude, I think you're really onto something.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2010-01-28 09:39:06

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