Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Number of Traffic Accidents

Sometimes it seems odd how comparatively safe driving is. When you're barrelling along the freeway at 65 miles an hour, you don't actually have much margin for error. It's a fair assumption that if you crash badly, you'll die. Even if the car cushions the blow, the real problem is that your brain is also decelerating against the inside of your skull, and that tends to be problematic.

In addition, there are lots of ways that you can make mistakes. The range of human abilities is vast, ensuring a reasonable number of woeful drivers on the road at any one time. In addition, there are loads of people who are tired, or fiddling with the radio, or text messaging their friend.

Given all this, it's not surprising that people have fatal accidents. What's surprising is that there aren't a whole lot more of them. In a major city, hundreds of thousands of people drive around every day without incident.

If I were from 100 years ago and were explained how the road system works, I think I would estimate far more accidents than there are.

I think it shows the surprising ability of the average person to act in a safe manner, anticipate other people's mistakes, and correct course before there's a problem.

Humans - they'll do all sorts of stupid stuff, but every now and again they'll surprise you with a pretty damn good and resilient system that operates with a fairly low level of central oversight.

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