Monday, December 01, 2003

I think that Warren Brown and this quote from NHTSA administrator Runge are spot on. Driver behavior and negligence may be more responsible for accidents and deaths on highways rather than inherent safety of the vehicles.

The Times article put it this way: "Many safety experts cite several reasons the United States has fallen in the rankings, despite having vehicles equipped with safety technology that is at least as advanced as, if not more than any other nation. They include lower seat-belt use than other nations; a rise in speeding and drunken driving; a big increase in deaths among motorcyclists, many of whom do not wear helmets".

Yes, big SUVs hitting cars at crushing speeds generally leads to deaths in the cars. But, according to NHTSA, that type of accident accounted for 4.5 percent of the deaths in 2002. Also involved in a number of those SUV-car crashes were people, sometimes in the SUVS, sometimes in the cars, sometimes in both, who were driving drunk or under the influence of drugs.

That is why it was gratifying to read Runge's overall assessment of what is the biggest cause of highway deaths during holidays and throughout the year. Said Runge to the Times:

"We have the safest vehicles in the world, so when you consider where we fall in the scheme of things, we can't blame the vehicles.

"We have a unique fleet in this country," said Runge, referring to the mix of light trucks and passenger cars sharing the nation's roads. "We're addressing that. But we could have the perfect vehicles, and until we address the human factors we're not going to change our ranking."

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