Seattle and the world are in a bind, the vice is tightening and the space between is lessening.
“Globally, vehicle ownership is forecast to double by 2020,” said U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “Road accidents have become the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 29. Each day, nearly 3,500 people die on the roads; tens of thousands more are injured. Families are broken apart. This is an unacceptable price to pay for mobility. The Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011 to 2020) has a goal of saving 5 million lives.”
We are suffering in this horrible health affliction across the United States and right here in Seattle. Mayor Mike McGinn and Dr. David Fleming, director of Public Health –Seattle and King County, are in concert with the United Nations by creating the Road Safety Summit.
Fleming is not a traffic engineer who’s going to get our traffic flowing. Our troubles are beyond traffic — now it’s a health issue. Fleming is a doctor and the director of a large metropolitan health department with 1,900 employees, 39 sites and a budget of $296 million, serving approximately 2 million people.
Prior to assuming this role, Fleming directed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Strategies Program. He was responsible for the creation, development and oversight of programs targeting diseases affecting the world’s poorest countries.
He also served as deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
He understands it’s a symphony of symptoms
conspiring to kill or permanently
maim thousands of Seattleites.
The Seattle Road Safety Summit is something you can still get involved in, too, to help create the cures. Go to Seattle.govand then go to the Road Safety Summit Page. Call or e-mail Rebecca Deehr at Rebecca. Deehr@seattle.govwhen you can join in for the next meeting. Check out the website for the recent Summit reports while you are there.
Oddly, the overwhelming majority of people hit by cars in Seattle are in crosswalks, where you assume you’re safest. Pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers are least safe in the crosswalk area, where drivers don’t always yield to pedestrians. Sadly, Seattle Police are writing a lot of jaywalking tickets yet hardly any for failure to yield.
Jaywalkers are almost never hurt, yet failure to yield is a common cause of severe injury and death in a crosswalk. As it turns out, jaywalking is safer for most pedestrians. Jaywalkers tend to look both ways carefully down long stretches before crossing the street.
Everyone thinks a smashup is the other person’s fault. The automobile driver blames the bicyclist; the bicyclist blame the driver. The pedestrian blames the driver, and the drivers blame the pedestrians. The car is the addiction, and petroleum is the fix to save time in transport.
It may be impossible to pay consistent attention to anything like driving for even a half hour. During a typical mile, a driver must make more than 60 decisions. The attention and focus to drive a deadly powerful and heavy automobile is beyond most of our education and abilities.
Dr. Helmut Spannheimer, head of the Driver Assistance and Perception Team at BMW, said in Traffic Technology International Magazine, “Driverless vehicles that are 100-percent error-free... are quite some time away. However, many common human driving errors, especially in monotonous driving situations, can be much better recognized by an electronic system because it never gets tired and or lets its guard down.”
Driving with windows down in your car will keep you in touch with your surroundings, creating more empathy and safety. Keep windows down while pulling into traffic and entering major arterials or highways.
Another part of the cure is changing to a smaller car: Get rid of the fuel-guzzling beast and buy a sipping cutie.
The Fiat 500 is an Insurance
Institute of Highway Safety best-pick and is so much fun to maneuver in our streets and up our hills, you’ve got try it. Like better European cars, the 500 is loaded with personality and go-get-’ em technology.
Driving long distances might be a touch harsh, depending on your age. The size of the doors and the front two seats make it easy to get in and out. The back two seats are for children or shorter adults.
Standard are the latest, active safety-technology features like stability control and multiple airbags. The 1.4L engine drives the front wheels with an automatic or manual. The gasoline engine gives you 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
Intelligence will dictate you stay away from big trucks and tractor-trailers. Drive a car like a bicycle rider or like a good walker who is omnipresent, and move like no one knows you’re there. Drive with consistent awareness to stay out of harm’s way.
The sensations and feedback on the Fiat 500 are indescribably delicious and satisfying. A small car like the Fiat 500 is part of the solution.
JEAN SWENSON and ASHLY KNAPP have studied and covered transportation machines and issues in print, on radio and television, locally and nationally. Send questions, ideas, comments or other communication to jeanandashly@ gmail.com.