Road Safety

Road safety is a mental-health problem, an engineering problem and has massive costs

Road Safety, A Mental Health Problem

Accident records incontrovertibly show that it is the drivers with poor attitudes, unconsciously determined, who have the most accidents. Highway safety thus becomes in great part a problem of mental health. The poor and dangerous driver, unfortunately, does not usually recognize him or herself as such. His or her unconscious reactions and motivations toward the automobile are part of the driver's total personality pattern.

From a personal standpoint, you can make yourself a better driver by understanding your personality pattern in all respects and thus becoming a more mature individual. From the standpoint of the public safety, however, since the poor driver is a menace to others as well as himself, the problem must be approached differently. Practically speaking, a few, but only a few, bad-risk drivers are weeded out by checking their repeated accident records and refusing them further driving privileges or a driver's license.

Theoretically, it might be possible to test all drivers for mental and emotional difficulties before they are allowed to get on the road and cause accidents; but this task of plumbing the unconscious minds of probably 95 million automobile drivers is far beyond the practical resources of public safety officials. Only the crudest beginnings have been made, and then only in a few states, by refusing licenses to people with frank mental illness and mental deficiencies.

Road Safety, An Engineering Problem

It is clearly recognized, of course, that highway safety is also an engineering problem. This takes in the design and construction of motor vehicles themselves as well as the design and upkeep of highways. One important, relatively recent engineering contribution to automobile safety is the automobile seatbelt. Properly designed and installed, and used regularly, seatbelts can cut death and accident tolls. The National Safety Council estimates that if everyone used seatbelts regularly at least 5000 lives a year could be saved and the number of serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents reduced by one-third. It is further claimed that seat harnesses could cut the death and accident tolls even more.

It is a nice question whether cars today are designed with maximum concern for safety of their drivers and passengers. It is sometimes claimed that they are not. The most famous attack was in 1966 in the United States with the publication of the book Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader, a young Washington attorney. The global motor vehicle industry has taken the lessons learned from this and cars worldwide are now far safer.

Costs of Accidents

In the US, their National Safety Council estimates and makes public annually the costs of all types of accidents involving deaths and injuries. In 1963, for example, the total cost of all types of accidents involving deaths and injuries. In 1963 for example the totals cost was 16.5 billion dollars. This figure includes wage losses, medical fees and hospital expenses, insurance costs, property damage and destruction, and production losses. About half the total costs were charged against motor vehicle accidents; about one-third against work accidents. In the mid-sixties the annual death toll from accidents ranged around 100,000; the number of disabling injuries around 10,000,000