Revolution in Highway Safety Needs a Little Help … Three weeks ago, I was walking home on a dark, snowy night in Concord, Massachusetts. The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital, hooked up to some kind of machine. I could not lift my legs or even my head. The doctors told me I had been unconscious for hours. They explained that I had been hit, full on, by a car whose driver apparently could not see me in the dark and the snow; that I had suffered a concussion; that I had four broken bones in my back; that I would probably be unable to walk for days; and that the recovery period could be long and tough. Still, they said, I had gotten lucky. They were right. I am fine. But a lot of people aren’t.
Everything that Cass Sunstein does – or is – somehow resolves itself into a reason why the US needs more regulation.
As you can see above, he recently had a severe accident and presumably that gave him time in bed to think about ever MORE regulatory activity.
Why would you think about regulations if you are bed with a broken back? You probably wouldn’t but you’re not Cass Sunstein.
In the very month in which the nation’s capital seems to be overrun by deregulatory fever, it was announced that in 2016, more than 40,000 Americans died in accidents involving motor vehicles. That’s a significant jump from 2015, when traffic deaths also increased from the year before.
The United States should not accept that level of human tragedy. The good news is that the Department of Transportation knows a lot about what might help — and, yes, regulation is a part of the picture. In the coming year, the department’s new leadership and the White House ought to mount an aggressive effort, working alongside the private sector and state and local officials, to reduce deaths on roads and highways.
Sunstein points out that things likely improved so much on the roads between 1930 to 2014 partially because of road regulation.
The most comprehensive report finds regulation saved some 613,501 lives in that time. Regulation included in Sunstein’s words “occupant protections” like airbags, child restraints and brake systems.
Seat belts are responsible for a lot of additional safety as well. Usage had increased to nearly 80 percent according to Sunstein. Drunk-driving deaths have also been cut substantially according to Sunstein.
Quite apart from government, new safety technologies, driven by market forces, have been exceedingly helpful.
However, since 2014, regulation has not kept pace with deaths. Sunstein says too many are still not using seat belts. Too many are still getting drunk. Distracted driving has become a big issue.
The Department of Transportation has plenty of ideas on how to push back however, and have recently announced a Road to Zero initiative, to bring accidents to zero deaths inside of 30 years.
Cass says such a goal might seem wildly optimistic but it’s not for any administration that cares for the populace. He says he’ll elaborate in a second article – Part Two.
We can guess some of what he might say. It probably has to do with upcoming driverless cars, including electric cars and how they will take over the responsibility of driving.
The problem with such cars is that they take input from outside outlets. Thus if someone owes some money for a ticket, the car might not turn on until the ticket is paid. That could go for any bill.
It could go well beyond bills. The car could be shut down for any one of a number of reasons.
Secondly, all of this is being done by force. It is not going to be voluntary. Even now, if a seat belt is not being worn, the driver might be fined. And that goes for a number of different activities. There are a wide range of safety mandates and not all of them are equally necessary or even necessary at all.
Finally, there is an assumption that these safety mandates are part of the work of government even though they may not be. Just because the government sees a potential upgrade doesn’t mean it has to make it.
From out point of view, the fewer regulations the better. If the car manufacturer wants to make safety changes, that’s good. If the government wants to do it, that’s not so good for a wide variety of reasons.
Ordinarily the market would deal with safety issues. Some cars would offer more safety features than others. There are unfortunately only two major car companies in America that are also based here. Because there are so few companies based in America, that competition has been lessened. There are too few companies and they are virtually part of the government anyway.
Ideally, there should be lots of smaller, regional companies with a myriad of competitive innovations. That would be a lot more possible if companies were responsible to themselves and shareholders rather than government.
Conclusion: Sunstein is convinced that only government can adequately promulgate safety regulations. We think it ought to be the outfits themselves.