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The Engineer's Lament: Two ways of thinking about auto safety

Posted: Tue May 05, 2015 8:51 pm
by MSI
May 4, 2015: New Yorker: Interesting article about auto safety by Malcolm Gladwell.
The Engineer's Lament: Two ways of thinking about automotive safety
A very interesting presentation of the many issues surrounding automotive safety. A must read for anyone in accident reconstruction and highway safety. Read about some of the very high profile safety cases since the 70's.
  • The Pinto gas tank
    The Cobolt ignition switch
    Honda Airbags
    Prius sudden acceleration
Examining the ways we look at vehicle safety.
Our media focus on sensational crashes which may ultimately not improve safety as many end up being statistically insignificant safety issues.
  • And my apologies to those individuals who's lives were lost and their families...i mean no disrespect...this article is about the difficulties in sorting through the massive amounts of information to be available to focus on identifying what might save the most lives when dealing with vehicle safety issues
  • speeding
    • (more penalties might discourage speeding which seems to be a factor in many high profile cases)
    seat belts vs air bag mania
    • (he didn't ask why haven't they raised the 9-14 MPH firing speed which was 'invented' to try to accommodate folks without seat belts, where it should be at 30 MPH or more when wearing seat belts since they are fine up to 30 MPH and bags have killed in lower speed collisions)
    driver behavior
    • (like why don't we train for 2 foot driving, would prevent pedal mis-identification and therefore reduction in sudden acceleration cases!)
    alcohol taxes vs MADD to prevent DUI deaths -
    • (raise the price of booze and DUI incidents go down (maybe the drunks can't afford the booze AND gas?))
Please see the article The Engineer's Lament: Two ways of thinking about automotive safety
some items missed:
  • (no mention of the NBC Dateline side saddle faked exploding gas tanks)
  • (no mention of the 60 minute faked sudden acceleration Audi 5000 destruction!)

Re: The Engineer's Lament: Two ways of thinking about auto safety

Posted: Wed May 06, 2015 10:02 am
by MSI
In response to some private emails on the article and some opinions in the article, please let me clarify:
The article is by Gladwell
  • he of fame from the popular books Tipping Point, Blink and others.
    And with Blink he put forth the proposition that since most decisions are 50/50 so why not simply guess on decisions since truly understanding issues and debating and analyzing is for the birds! Just guess and use the time you would have spent deliberating and understanding having FUN!
    (ok that might not have been the main message of Blink but it is in there!)
I believe he left out a lot of important aspects of the whole safety issue by reliance on statistics.
  • And you know statistics, wherein the truth lyes!
The article is an interesting look at some of the components which go into vehicle safety and design however i believe he missed a lot of important stories. He failed to mention that however 'defective' our safety regulation process is, the death rate per million miles of vehicle travel has been dropping significantly.
Something is definitely working with the NHTSA/civil litigation process!
So for the record: I did not mean to endorse any opinions in the article. Just thought it was an interesting article!
for info on how good vehicle safety is doing...2011 NHTSA Early Estimate of Traffic Fatalities Record Low!