This is an obvious call to action. Something must be done. We need more laws, more money for enforcement and more citations written – Speed Kills!
Not so fast says a follow up study just completed by National Motorists Association. The study shows the safest period on Montana’s Interstate highways was when there were no daytime speed limits or enforceable speed laws.
The doubling of fatal accidents occurred after Montana implemented its new safety program; complete with federal funding, artificially low speed limits and full enforcement.
Yes we all want safer highways, but who are the players and whom can we believe? How can fatal accidents double after we put in place our government’s (NHTSA) most revered highway safety strategy? What is going on here? Something doesn’t add up. Is this an anomaly or is it expected?
The NMA has long held that true highway safety can only be achieved by following sound engineering practices, not conjecture, and we wanted to find out what really happened in Montana. In this study we examined the 2 classifications of highway where the effects of no limits and full enforcement could be definitively compared. These Montana findings add weight to 70 plus years of consistent engineering findings to the same effect.
From an engineering perspective the evidence strongly suggests that some of these lives lost were a direct result of Montana’s politicians succumbing to unfounded conjecture. They passed a politically correct law at a time when the state’s fatal accidents were at a modern low and its roads were never safer. Why are they responsible, they simply ignored (US title 23, federal law) federal safety requirements that sound engineering standards and practices be followed – resulting in non–complying signs being posted, adoption of unsafe practices that are known to increase accident rates, which most certainly includes hazards remaining unmarked or with insufficient warning.
There are four primary contributors to this confusion: In the last 30 years we have institutionalized a billion dollar enforcement industry… a press that transitioned from investigative into a business… the ever ominous politicians looking to get reelected or establishing a legacy… and the ignored traffic safety engineering community who has relentlessly documented cause and effect safety strategies, requires peer review and verification before a standard is adopted as the most effective solution, a group which knows the best policy is one that always encompasses observed human nature.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) personifies the traffic enforcement industry, because this industry is its primary constituent. In its role, it first created “Speed Kills”, next was “Road Rage” and then the “Aggressive Driving” slogans and supporting propaganda campaigns to scare the public into growing the enforcement industry (revenues, equipment, staffing). Its press releases as a matter of practice grossly misrepresent data (invent a crisis, then the need to intervene) – engineering findings never support its conclusions. At what cost? Fatality rates in 2000 increased again, sound engineering practices have been undermined, road blocks for checking your papers are now legal and common, vehicle confiscation for minor infractions now accepted practice, mothers are thrown into jail for not wearing seat belts – and a public gladly sacrificing its liberty to false safety idols.
The press (a business hungry for content) regurgitated every piece of propaganda that NHTSA could produce. Nobody can be against traffic safety and here is an agency whose very name says they are our protectors. Consequently the press became a conduit of unverified claims supporting this agency’s self interest. Marketing 101, tell someone for their entire life something is true – it becomes their truth. Except for a small group of traffic engineers and researchers, these manufactured urban myths became the nation’s truth, encompassing its politicians, reporters and citizens.
As for politicians, just ask which way is the wind blowing – sounds good to them. In Montana there was law and order Governor Mark Racicot, standing by the Attorneys General, the Chief of the Highway Patrol and the wishes of the law enforcement community. The state agencies followed the governor’s wishes and testified in support of the new law (when their data didn’t support it) – the norm in today’s world of agency testimony in front of legislative committees.
Now to the silenced engineers and researchers. Federal law (Title 23) says fact–based sound engineering practices are to take precedence over conjecture. The problem, no one is willing to enforce it – including the FHWA. These professionals work for political entities, and at the end of the day they are silenced from practicing their profession because they have families to feed and they need a job.