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Ken Margolin
Ken Margolin
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Traffic Injuries are Not Inevitable

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A recent article on traffic injuries, written by researchers at a non-profit organization affiliated with Emory University, states that worldwide, traffic accidents cause 1 million fatalities and over 20 million injuries per year. The authors (Lauren P. Giles, B.A.; Elisabeth S. Hayes, M.B.A.; and Mark L. Rosenberg, M.D., M.P.P., Road Traffic Injuries: Can we Stop a Global Epidemic?), draw the interesting conclusion that one of the biggest factors in the prevalence of traffic accidents is the fatalistic belief by the public and planners, that a certain significant number of accidents are inevitable. The authors reject such belief and contend that many more steps can and should be taken to prevent motor vehicle crashes.

The authors recommend a number of factors that could reduce highway accidents, for example: improved roadway design and planning, better signals and crosswalks, more curbs and sidewalks, well-defined bicycle lanes. While all of the recommendations would undoubtedly make a difference, some will be budget-dependent and will only occur piecemeal, for example, larger roads and highways designed with ample shoulders and breakdown lanes, with an absence of visibility barriers (hedges, poles, etc.), and passenger-car-only roads to reduce car-truck crashes.

Improved enforcement of current laws may be a more realistic method for reducing accidents in the near-term. The fight against drunk drivers needs to be intensive and constant. Greater State Police visibility on the highways is known to reduce accidents by lessening incidents of reckless driving. Reducing the speed limit to 55 miles per hour saved lives in addition to lowering fuel consumption. That initiative, however, seems to have little public support and is opposed by the powerful trucking industry lobby.

The best defense against traffic accidents lies with the individual and is a cliche, true nevertheless – defensive driving and common sense.