I note a number of articles in US media the last few days discussing the application of rear-facing video cameras in cars and light trucks to assist in backing up. This is prompted by an advocacy group that includes many parents who's kids were run over, which feels the US DOT has been dragging its feet in mandating such cameras on new vehicles. This is in spite of Congress passing a law in 2007 that required the DOT investigate solutions to the problem.
According to the article, something like 1,000 deaths have occurred since 2007 due to back-up accidents, though that number is a bit fuzzy since there aren't good records specifically kept for that cause. This has an aspect that tugs at the heartstrings in that almost 1/2 of the deaths involve children under 5 years of age.
Here's one article as an example:
One interesting comment in the article is: "NHTSA and OMB are 'generally reluctant to issue safety standards that cost consumers more than $5-$10 million per life saved.'"
I found that to be in interesting number, given the push for PTC on railroads, which is expected to cost in the order of $13 Billion in the US, and perhaps prevent something like three passenger deaths a year, on average. (I'm using US statistics, since I haven't seen any Canadian ones for comparison.)
That means over a 20 year period, the railways will have spent something like $50 Billion, including maintenance and replacement cost,*** for PTC to avoid 60 passenger deaths, or almost $1 billion per death, while the US DOT is reluctant to mandate back-up cameras at something like $5 or 10 million (with an M) per life saved.
What's wrong with this picture, and why are so many people demanding that rail spend so much money, yet don't seem to be as concerned about something that will directly cost them money? There seems to be a gigantic disconnect in the relative perception of risk.
A similar case can be made for the installation of seatbelts in school buses and long distance buses, where there are advocacy groups making similar demands for action, but nobody wants to pay the price because of the high cost for each life potentially saved, and, in the case of school buses, the threat of having to divert money from education to provide an increase safety, this trading off better education for reduced risk.
*** Typically an annual cost of something like 20 percent of initial investment cost is used to estimate ongoing expenses for maintaining and replacing high-tech equipment. Not unreasonable in this case given the rapid advancements in technology, and the need for well-trained technicians to do the maintenance and installation.
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