1953: Driver Safety

The other night it was raining pretty hard, and while I was sitting in my living room watching my beloved TIVO, I heard some sirens (not uncommon as I’ve got a firehouse and hospital within a few blocks) get closer and closer, and then suddenly a dramatic crunch. I ran out onto the front porch and saw a large EMT truck – something between a firetruck and an ambulance – stopped a few houses up, with people tumbling out, cursing. Apparently they’d skidded off the road and up over a curb, landing in a median that happened to have a couple of large boulders, which stopped the truck in its path. Luckily, everyone appared to be ok and the vehicle was gone by morning. I just hope wherever it was headed had a backup!

Anyway, the road curves in front of my house and people drive too fast, so I’d been expecting something like this to happen. And having just read about a new study out by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, traffic safety has been on my mind. I’m happy to say I don’t drive a whole lot during the week, so I miss commuters putting on makeup in their cars and reading the paper or checking their email while driving (egads!).

I have a few safety-related books so decided to look up what were the cause of accidents in earlier, less-technologically advanced days. Here’s a description from the 1953 book for for junior high kids titled Safety Challenges You (Chicago: Beckley-Cardy Company):

It is always important… that a driver be free from physical defects that may interfere with good driving. Reports to the National Safety Council from state traffic authorities showed that in a recent year seven per cent of drivers involved in fatal accidents had bodily defects and ten per cent were asleep or overtired. Defective hearing, poor eyesight, and illness were listed as the principal bodily defects. The first two can usually be corrected, and keeping physically fit is a safeguard against illness.

The figures given above do not include physical and mental unfitness due to alcohol. While not all accident reports include this information, the picture is too plain for anyone to ignore.

While sleepiness and alcohol are a constant danger even today, this whole business about illness and bodily defects doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer. Unless you count Blackberry addictions as an illness.