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It seems to me that there is an interesting phenomenon here that applies across a wide range of topics. Basically, what was an acceptable risk level in the past may not be acceptable in the future.

  • Sailing ships. 100 years ago there were still square-rigged ships where people had to climb hundreds of feet into the air to work the lines, in bad conditions--night, winter, storms--without safety lines.

  • War. Western soldiers now expect to have body armor in addition to helmets and boots.

  • Railroad locomotives. Sure, a big old steam engine is "fun," but would would actually want to work in one nowadays, with no cab temperature control, lousy signaling, no visibility whatsoever...not to mention the problem of people on the tracks.

  • Cars, where the death rate in the 1930s was astounding.

So a technical solution like a subway platform or a railroad ROW or a highway or the observation deck on a skyscraper or the failsafe system in an elevator--anything related to safety--that might have been acceptable in the past now becomes unacceptable. That cost must be taken into account for future designs, and as a retrofit cost for existing systems.

New subways have barriers so you can't fall on the rails. You could do that with train platforms, also. The ROW could be protected throughout its length--at considerable cost. If there's enough money, you can always find a way to improve the safety of a system.

I wonder whether this effect is going to be the end of cars. Since they are so deadly, at some point--maybe as a result of the gun debate in the U.S.--the question will come up "why are we building more of these slaughterhouse roads when we could build trains instead?"

Not to mention football/soccer; the game will change considerably when heading is inevitably outlawed...

by asdf on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 05:31:27 PM EST
Interesting.

In Sweden, deaths by cars has gone down considerably the laste decades as a result of a zero (deaths) vision. It has been a pragmatic policy that has aimed at reducing the most dangerous areas first, and with a wide range of options on actions. Roads with lots of casualities has been rebuilt on a large scale, there has been more sobriety checks and speeding cameras and also physical safety improvements in cars.

I think it was around 1500 dead in traffic a year in the 60ies, which has come down to 296 last year (think that is all traffic). Trains kill around 100 a year and a similar policy has gone into affect there, aiming as a first step to cut that by 50% between 2010 and 2020.

In general I would say that the success has stimulated demands for a zero policy in other areas like suicides which remain around 1000 a year. Sweden has btw an average suicide rate, contrary to myths anyone might have read.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:47:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though Sweden does have a new approach to attempted suicide by train.
A cleaner stole an empty commuter train from a depot and drove it to a suburb of Stockholm where it derailed and slammed into an apartment building, officials have said.

The woman was seriously injured in the early-morning crash and was flown to a Stockholm hospital, police spokesman Lars Bystrom said. No one else was injured.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technical inquiry is done, and though still unconscious the cleaner has been cleared of all charges. The prosecutor is now proceeding with an investigation into breach of worker safety regulations, but says it will crucial to question the cleaner. So not much will happen before she wakes up. Union says it is not the first time the company has jumped the gun.

Since breaches of worker safety regulations are less exciting then someone stealing a train, I guess this will not make the international media.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jan 19th, 2013 at 05:05:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"War time mentality" is what office racing enthusiasts call it. Was around until the 1970's at least.
by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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