Thanks for posting this. It will help me professionally to formulate my opinions on such situations more clearly and will serve as a reference point for future discussion.
Like many books in sociology it comes at the problem from multiple perspectives (in different chapters) such that you can't really hold the author to any one clear conclusion.
Big picture, the space shuttle was "unsafe at any speed" from the very beginning. It was estimated that it had a 3% or so chance of blowing up on any flight which turned out to be just about right in hindsight.
One point of the book was that the Space Shuttle had many things wrong with it: they had a committee who's job it was to review all the safety risks and decide which ones they could accept. "Normalization of deviance" was not a bottom-up matter of bad practices, but a formal part of the organization.
If things had gone a little different with the O-Rings then perhaps the "Challenger Disaster" wouldn't have happened, but then it would have been something else. I remember in the early days the thermal tiles were falling off, but after they had done a few flights they convinced themselves it was OK. It was the Columbia disaster that proved that they weren't OK and couldn't ever be OK.
Having a committee dedicated to assessing risks seems like a good idea. Having a group consciously deciding between risks you can live with, risks you have to live with, risks you can mitigate, and risks that stop everything is a fundamentally good idea.
The problem is taking risks without thinking about them, or taking risks without knowing exactly why they haven't killed you before. And even more unfortunately, this is all on an experimental project That Cannot Ever Be Allowed To Fail, Ever™.
In a comittee maybe you can justify the human deaths as nessesary risk, after all people die in traffic all the time. But that ignores the political dimension. The Challenger Disaster was a giant blow to the entire shuttle program: The space shuttle was only funded because of support by the military. With the entire fleet grounded for 2 years and much needed performance improvements canceled that support vanished (see for example: the last DoD shuttle mission was in '92).
So often - risky decisions are made - many pass without incidence and yet, problems happen. Often such risks are reviewed in hindsight and the weight of the realisation of risk that pass into actuality. Though when they don't fail, nobody passes a second thought and over time, such risks get normalised.
The issue is that all mechanisms to do so are susceptible to some variant of the problem you highlighted. As so highlighted in the OP's submission, individuals can make the exact same mistakes.
I feel that a lot of things comes from the fact that we are constantly encouraged to over-quantify risk. That is we take things where REALLY we don't have a good grasp of the real numbers, and then make something up. If we're good, they'll even be in the right ballpark. If we happen to choose to follow the course of action, and everything is working "just fine", we go back to our mental risk model, which we always knew was kinda made up, and then say "well, I guess I guessed wrong", and assign a lower risk.
But "normalization of deviance" is also partially how the science / the engineering works. The science and engineering is pushing the boundary and turning what used to be unknown into known and tested through experiment / experience. Learning from experience is fundamentally how the science and the engineering work. So it's really difficult to tell when it's a normalization of deviance and when it's a normal scientific/engineering process.
Note that the crew of the Challenger wasn't killed by the "explosion", they were killed when the vehicle compartment they were in hit the water.
If the shuttle had an escape mechanism the way every other manned space vehicle had, they might have survived. Had they built in an escape mechanism, there wouldn't have been any room for cargo. From a safety perspective launching cargo + passengers on the same rocket was a mistake.
Also the shuttle was designed to do a military mission that it never actually did, which would be launching, orbiting the Earth once, and then landing at an airstrip close to the launch point. That requires a large "cross-range" (ability to turn when reentering the atmosphere) which in turn requires larger wings which are more vulnerable to something like what happened to Colombia.
In hindsight, we can see mistakes in terms of specific design and technical decisions. But I don't think those are the biggest lessons from the disaster. We will continue making such mistakes, since technical misjudgement itself will always happen. I think Challenger Launch Decision's main point, that the organizational structure and culture have large impact on individual decision making is the lasting lesson. The book's closing sentence is excellent:
"The lingering uncertainty in the social control of risky technology is how to control the institutional forces that generate competition and scarcity and the powerful leaders who, in response, establish goals and allocate resources, using and abusing high-risk technical systems".
Seems to me that the relationship between Boeing and its various 737 MAX customers could be seen in a very similar light. Abusing high-risk technical systems as a tool to extract resources to cover for artificial scarcity in budgets or market expectations.
Just consider something like a software launch. No matter how much effort you expend trying to make things go perfectly, or how many months of beta testing you engage in - something's going to go wrong. And that's in a nearly completely deterministic environment. Space travel involves countless external nondeterministic factors. Another big difference is that in the software world we get instantaneous scale - up to millions of instantaneous independent trials. Spaceflight advances one costly trial at a time. In the entire history of rocketry, we haven't even begun to approach scale and so all the pretext of safety we could ever elevate is just that - a pretext.
It's for this reason that being open about risk and danger is important. It's also why I think aiming for complete safety can be paradoxically harmful. It creates scenarios where open discussion of danger and risk becomes taboo since it can result in negative consequences. The most critical factor in all of this should be informed consent. Making risk taboo goes directly against that.
normalization of deviance is when a process isn’t followed. when the reality of the process is different than the understood, risk-managed, process.
Normalizing deviance is more akin to deciding that things that were obviously out of the norm are now accepted as a new normal without the gradual degradation, at least in my way of thinking.
I also think it’s not a very accurate analogy.
Broken window theory is real: imagine a random person in spotlessly clean city versus a city where there is trash everywhere. More people would litter in the latter city, I don’t think that is too controversial. Thus a run-down neighborhood with lots of broken windows will normalize behaviors that would be stigmatized elsewhere.
The unfortunate part was when NY adopted “broken windows policing”, which is to go into those neighborhoods and make lots of arrests for petty crimes, as if replacing all the broken windows might somehow reduce crime. Of course this is pretty dumb, since entrenched normalization of deviance (decades of bad/discriminatory policy) can’t simply be fixed by zealous application of punitive measures.
Citation needed. There are plenty of counterintuitive things in sociology; the broken window theory sounds plausible but that in no way implies that it's true.
But surely that's because littering causes litter?
Of course, but...
>... as if replacing all the broken windows might somehow reduce crime. Of course this is pretty dumb
Calling it dumb seems to contradict the first quote above... If broken windows normalize bad behaviors, less broken windows would seem to prevent normalizing those behaviors.
>entrenched normalization of deviance (decades of bad/discriminatory policy) can’t simply be fixed by zealous application of punitive measures.
Why not? Punishing deviance prevents the normalization of deviance.
Curious, what would you think of broken windows policing as applied to high-crime white neighborhoods?
If not identical, it at least seems closely adjacent.
I'm curious to hear your perspective; what's wrong with the analogy?
Which is exactly what the author did with the landing gear of his aircraft, no?
Over the year I find myself and my team (civil-structural engineers) doing even more and more riskier designs. Things we wouldn't have considered OK during our early years. We do get review and approvals from seniors, but maybe their acceptance is also "normalisation of deviance" as described in the article. Sharing it with my team.
Or is it a case of market/management pressure pushing the limits that is the driver? With those pushing the limits getting a competitive edge - that draws others into competing in the same way.
Automation and good practices brought back confidence, so I was wondering two things.
First most obvious, how come do pilots trust a system that has these layers of manual security checks with their lives. And second, can't it all be automated? I understand aircrafts must have independent modules and every level of integration implies extra risk, but at least in security critical tests, automation would come a great way in ensuring crew safety, wouldn't it? Is it too hard? Systems are not flexible to implement automatic security checklists or is it just a culture in the field to check it all manually?
“Some tone after that first miserable try, I did what I should have done to begin with. I went to the library and pulled out a few articles on how flight checklists are made. As great as construction-world checklists seemed to be, they were employed in projects that routinely take months to complete. In surgery, minutes matter. The problem of time seemed as serious limitation. But aviation had this challenge, too, and somehow pilots’ checklists met it.”
“It is common to misconceive how checklists function in complex lines of work. They are not comprehensive how-to guides, whether for building a skyscraper or getting a plane out of trouble. They are quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals. And by remaining swift and usable and resolutely modest, they are saving thousands of lives.”
It's one thing to have a script check the return code of a test suite. Often times aircraft checklists include things like physically verifying that something is present and moving in the correct manner when commanded to do so. Obviously you can add sensors, but then how do you check that the sensor is working?
At the end of the day, most of the manual checklist items are still for a human to look at or listen to a thing and make a judgement call.
The trust comes from understanding the system and associated risk that contribute to conditions where the system is out of normal operating range. Pilots learn that doing simple checks on parts of the system that are likliest to contribute to abnormal operations is life saving in the long run. E.g. may seem simple that control locks werent taken off but it happens and it's why we check the controls prior to take off. It's why we put the engines to fill throttle to make sure oil pressure is as expected.
Anytime there is an accident many pilots will read the reports and add an additional check or reemphasize a current check that they need to continue to use.
As far as automation. It could fix it. But it increases system complexity so there will be this valley where for a while the automated system isn't much better than normal checks, infact might be worse due to over reliance. Also logic in software or hardware can lie to you in ways that mechanical realities of moving control surfaces, checking oil level, checking tire pressure can't be beat (at least with a cheap solution). This is why the FAA for critical components requires multiple systems doing the same thing and concensus algorithms.
Recently I bought a lemon for a motorcycle. The ECU started giving me error codes twenty five minutes into my first ride. Engine started cutting out. I couldn't start it. On the other hand in a Cessna I could lose all electrical power (assuming magnetos are still operating) and still operate the plane just fine, although without radio comms. The Cessna is from 1972, while the motorcycle from 2017. Granted I could've checked wires or inspected more carefully but non the less, the 2017 motorcycle is a more complex system.
When I buy cars I do a pretty thorough inspection and an extended test drive. Even so I once ended up with a car on which the clutch pedal would not return once every few hundred strokes or so, something that by chance did not happen even once in a pretty long test drive.
> can't it be all automated
No. Some of it certainly could, notably gear related like engine checks as in your car. And yes current systems are not very flexible, the strong bias towards "tried and trusted" does slow down the arrival of fancy electronics.
But checklists also include confirming you have weather information, making sure your surroundings are clear of danger, that your fly plan is defined...
This is more about checking the human component and can't be automated.
> how come do pilots trust a system that has these layers of manual security checks with their lives
This is the best we came up with so far.
Manual checks also give you a sense of control.
Conveniently the word "deviance" has multiple meanings, two of which apply here.
The article uses deviance in the sense of "deviation from the behavioral norm" (where that norm is a external process). I completely agree with your assessment that these processes can become cumbersome and a barrier to doing work (at most big companies the process becomes the point and dominates actually getting work done). Automation can go a long way to improving that, both in reducing cynicism and letting people spend their time on the stuff that actually moves the company forward.
However the manual checks in aviation also serve to find unexpected deviation in the shape or performance of the device. The reason the first officer walks around the aircraft is not for exercise but because she may see something "out of the ordinary" for which no test exists -- something that should be straight looks subtly out of kilter, indicating that, say, a bolt on the wheel has come loose and under load the wheel tilts slightly. This kind if check is harder to find in software which uses many fewer humans intuitions, which is why we have code stylebook and code reviews.
The example in the article is an interesting one because to an outsider it clearly looks bonkers and yet, to an experienced insider it might look workable.
Yes, but two things. Airplane technology advances happen slowly but surely. Small changes can have big consequences when flying. So rightfully any changes are thought about for a long time until they're deployed in practice. And so far airplane safety is miles and miles above any other mode of transportation, so it would appear that this cautious behavior is working.
But even if we had fully automated "turn key" planes checklists do something for the pilots. They force pilots to understand their instrument panels, where the controls are and how the plane largely operates. Things like the start up procedure can vary really radically between planes even with the same types of engine. In an emergency, say an electrical failure, this can be really crucial if certain systems need to be restarted/turned off -- it's best that pilot doesn't spend time during an emergency understanding where everything is. Even if they've flown the same plane for years, they're only human and you forget what you don't use.
Part of the walkaround/pre-flight process is me getting my head into the aviation game (and out of the "stressful workday" or "other life BS"). It's a few minutes of partial meditation as I walk around the aircraft, pushing, prodding, and inspecting.
(In my aircraft's case, the empty weight is around 2700 lbs and examples can be purchased for under $100K. There's a substantial premium on weight and [to a lesser extent] space for redundant or automated systems to give me a checklist that says "ensure green 'OK' light is lit".)
Also, general aviation is a much bigger portion of aviation than scheduled passenger airline service: number of airplanes, pilots, airports, and jobs. Any automation is going to be narrowly applied outside of general aviation, it's just not yet a general purpose solution.
There's a good overview in this talk:
"Architectural Patterns of Resilient Distributed Systems" by Ines Sombra
It's fucking terrifying.
So true. People who think they're doing the right thing can cause so much damage.
"Normalization of deviance" would be the mechanism by which a slope becomes slippery; a schelling fence (in this case... a checklist?) is then a possible fix, even if it's just to trigger a re-evaluation of "normal"
The author's situation reminds me of the Tenerife airport disaster- absolutely macabre and sobering. 
Great articles there.
Also Boeing and the MCAS fiasco
I'd had a general idea about this, but it was crystalized by a vehicle dynamics engineer and racer who mentored me in both engineering and race driving. He said:
"You need to know the difference between skill and getting away with something"
I.e., just because you survive an event does not mean that it is reliable. If it is based on skill, you can replicate it and reliably survive. If it based on luck, well . . . take the bit of grace you were given by the Gods and learn your lesson to not do it again. Mostly, THINK.
"How I Almost Destroyed a £50M War Plane [while nearly killing myself and my colleague] and the Normalisation of Deviance"
Talking to a few Royal Australian Air Force folks last year, apparently they had a similar-ish culture of “she’ll be right” arrogance/confidence, and then they had a cluster of accidents that caused a foundation level rethink and rebuild of a safety/process culture into every flight and every high risk activity.
It sounds like accident #’s have collapsed since then.
Be careful, aviation fanboy writing, not a qualified pilot/tech/engineer.
I'm running the latest version of Chrome on Ubuntu 16.04 - hope that helps you diagnose this issue.
Here's a screenshot: https://imgur.com/kwXdIsa
"A good pilot is compelled to always evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. Up there, we gotta push it."
I'm a cyclist. People often ask me why cyclists break the law so frequently. The studies I've looked at don't suggest cyclists break the law any more frequently than drivers do, but they do break different laws. (To my knowledge I follow every applicable traffic law.) When I ask the driver I'm speaking with if they speed I frequently get a justification of speeding as if it's perfectly safe because "everyone does it".
In terms of problems people should focus on, cyclists tend to break laws in ways that mostly harm only themselves (e.g., running a red light), while drivers break laws in ways that tend to harm others in addition to themselves (e.g., speeding, failure to yield, etc.). The fact that drivers vastly outnumber cyclists also makes the priorities even more clear.
Another example, I tend to pull over the stop line at stop lights, so that cars don't accidentally creep into me. It happens even in designated "cycle boxes", which cars are supposed to stop behind to increase visibility of cyclists.
Sometimes you can get into a situation where you're in more exposure than you originally bargained for as well, when new cars show up or the situation changes, and I'll sometimes abandon the original plan and bail off the road when it's safe. Often breaking some laws when doing so, but I'm going to take responsibility for my own safety when I need to.
What I dislike seeing is cyclists just flying through reds, darting over crosswalks when pedestrians are still crossing, or weaving in out of moving cars so they can feel like an NYC bike messenger for a minute. It's not without consequence to others, you just don't notice that people had to jump out of the way or slow down so they didn't hit you. That makes it bad sportsmanship in my eyes.
On top of that, I have encountered lights where if you don't do this, you will hold up traffic indefinitely because the light only changes when something bigger (heavier? more metallic?) than a bike is at the stop line
Running a red light could easily harm others - a driver could swerve to avoid you, crashing in the process; if a driver hits you because you ran a light, that could also cause a chain of accidents; and if a driver killed you because you ran a red light, that could seriously harm their wellbeing.
While there are people who would be seriously bothered if they inadvertently contributed to a cyclist's death, I think the number of such people is smaller than the number of people who claim they would be bothered.
One only needs to look at their revealed preferences to show this. Given the choice between waiting a minute or two (estimated 95th percentile; the median is likely around 15 seconds) to safely pass a cyclist, many drivers instead choose to pass a cyclist very closely and dangerously. If they actually would be bothered if they killed a cyclist, why do they do this? My life is not worth a minute of someone's time.
Of course, the bad drivers could claim that they didn't know passing a cyclist closely was dangerous, but in my experience few drivers claim that. I've spoken to many drivers when stopped at stop lights, trying to understand their perspective. Often they imply that I deserve to be passed dangerous because I broke some rules of the road. So they can't claim ignorance.
(The "rules" I broke are not actually rules. For example, I've had people tell me that I was going far below the speed limit when I was going 17-18 mph in a 15 mph zone. I intentionally picked that road because of the low speed limit, yet some people want to drive 40+ mph there and apparently that makes me a jerk who deserves to be run over.)
I've seen arguments that people are "different" when driving, so perhaps they're a jerk when behind the wheel but a normal person otherwise. I haven't seen any clear evidence for this but it would indicate that the emotional impact would be different.
You should know how bad people are at estimating risk. Combine that with some short-lasting road rage and you can easily find someone that will do dangerous things all the time but be distraught if that ends in death.
I disagree with the emphasized part of your statement. Drivers seem worried about the emotional consequences of killing someone. But apparently the emotional consequences of nearly being killed don't count? Or at least they haven't been mentioned here. Nearly being killed is not harmless.
> Combine that with some short-lasting road rage and you can easily find someone that will do dangerous things all the time but be distraught if that ends in death.
I can accept that many drivers are road raging and that their behavior otherwise would be different. But I can't accept that's all of them, as that seems inconsistent with my experience in over a decade of cycling.
They don't have to be correct to be understandable.
The only way I can read this is that you believe, of the people that cause a collision with a bicycle (accidentally or otherwise), all (or almost all) of them would just leave you to die on the side of the road.
That is a staggeringly low opinion of humanity.
I didn't have all drivers who'd be in a collision with a cyclist in mind, just a large fraction of those who deliberately pass cyclists closely. My wording was too strong.
Hit and run crashes account for roughly 12% of all crashes in the US, so they may be more common than you believe: https://aaafoundation.org/hit-and-run-crashes-prevalence-con...
When people make sweeping assumptions about the nature of other people it says something about them too.
It's also perfectly normal to be extremely careful at crossroads because some cyclists consider red lights suggestions.
Of course, when cyclists clearly misbehave there'll be grumbling, but I find it interesting that even in those cases, my 'rage' pretty much never crosses the line of respecting cyclists at all costs. It's just part of how we're taught to behave as drivers (and, I suppose, the legal ramifications that generally favor cyclists, afaik).
Was this advice intended for me? I don't run red lights or stop signs, and am particularly careful in pedestrian heavy areas.
Cyclists have killed pedestrians before, e.g., Chris Bucchere: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Bicy...
No, all cyclists.
This makes me think that the "difference" you cite is less a matter of which laws the cyclist chooses to break, and rather more due to the vehicle with which the cyclist chooses to break them. Were cyclists likewise equipped with an exterior body and 1-2 tonnes of mass they would be responsible for a wholesale slaughter.
Unlike the selfish car driver, of course, the cyclist at least has the ethical honesty to knowingly commit to breaking specific laws, secure in the knowledge that they will only harm themselves, their loved ones, and the driver of the car that kills them.
It's the net effect of both. From a consequentialist perspective it does not make much sense to focus so heavily on cyclists running red lights. Drivers speeding is much more dangerous and occurs at a much higher frequency, yet it is much more socially acceptable than cyclists running red lights.
Unless you're on a road which was designed and marked with the expectation of mild speeding, which as far as I understand is most of them. In that case it puts you at the target level of danger, not an increased level of danger.
Why is it disingenuous? Cyclists can be jerks too
Riding bikes on the sidewalk is known to be more dangerous than riding on the road: http://bicyclesafe.com/#crosswalk
At least where I've ridden in the States, cyclists tend to be treated as something between cars and pedestrians. For example, a driver often squeezes by you on a 2-lane road with oncoming traffic. In these circumstances, it's hardly surprising that cyclists make up their own rules. I regularly break the laws for cars on a bike, because I am more maneuverable, and I'm the one who's toast if either of us makes a mistake.
When deviance is normal, you have to adapt.
And the cyclist had a pretty bad day too.
Running a red light is dangerous and can have plenty of collateral damage.
You can find plenty of real world examples of cyclists harming others from running stop signs or red lights, e.g., the Chris Bucchere case comes immediately to mind:
The number of these cases where bad cycling caused harm to others is much smaller than the number of cases where bad driving caused harm to others. That's my point.
Contrast this to speeding. Speed limits by law should be set to the 85th percentile speed, based on the evidence backed notion that drivers will predominantly pick a speed which is safe based on the road conditions, and that it’s most safe when drivers are all proceeding at the same speed.
The vast majority of every day speeding that I witness, and that I participate in, is of the kind where the limit is set illegally low due to political pressure or other factors, and the predominant and safest speed is higher than the limit. This is true, for example, for many highways in MA which have limits of 55 mph.
That’s not to say that I never truly speed, which I shouldn’t do, and is entirely unjustified.
> Contrast this to speeding. Speed limits by law should be set to the 85th percentile speed, based on the evidence backed notion that drivers will predominantly pick a speed which is safe based on the road conditions, and that it’s most safe when drivers are all proceeding at the same speed.
The 85th percentile rule is meant for highways to my knowledge, not every road. Edit: Here's a criticism of the 85th percentile rule: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/1/25/speed-kills-so...
Not defending bad behaviour here, just observing how it can be incentivised.
Drivers kill over 40,000 people every single year, more than gun deaths? And many, many more seriously injured.
Now, are you just pretending to care, or are you going to stop driving.
Clearly you're not a pedestrian in Manhattan.
You and the poster above you also miss the point: Drivers cause much more harm than cyclists in total, yet drivers speeding is deemed much more acceptable than cyclists running red lights.
I don't doubt that cyclists can harm pedestrians or others, and I don't believe that cyclists breaking the law is acceptable. Just that when cyclists break the law the amount of potential damage is much more limited than when drivers do.
Running traffic signals on the other hand is just plain stupid and self-centered no matter what you're piloting at the time.
From what I can tell, drivers tend to run red lights either because the light just changed and they couldn't stop in time or because they're distracted. In contrast, cyclists who run red lights tend to wait for traffic to clear. I didn't realize the difference until I tried talking to cyclists who run red lights (not recommended by the way; they tend to be jerks). So in that sense the two are not comparable.
Plus, as bikes tend to weigh less and travel less fast than cars, the potential for harm for a cyclist running a red light is greatly reduced compared against a driver running a red light.
Here are some helmet cam videos that I took that show red light running drivers:
After the first video, I saw that the driver stopped nearby, so I went to speak with them. They admitted they were distracted. I have no idea what happened in the second video. If I were not paying attention in both cases I would not be writing this post now. In contrast, if a cyclist did the same then I'd probably be here.
That's not to say that all cyclists who run red lights look carefully. Here's a helmet cam video that I took which shows a cyclist brazenly running a red light in a way that I think is particularly dangerous:
And here's a more recent video of mine showing a Bird scooter rider running a red light:
(Apologies for the language.)
This last one was probably the most dangerous time someone ran a red light that I've personally seen. I was wearing a high-viz jacket at the time and find it hard to believe they would not see me if they looked. They might have been blinded by the sun.
As for speeding being safer, sure, that's true sometimes, but what's the net effect? Just focusing on the good isn't representative.
I also sometimes see people bring the time saved from speeding into consideration, but in my experience speeding doesn't save much time unless you're on the highway. If you're in a more densely populated area with traffic lights, your speed is more limited by the traffic lights than anything else. I know this as a cyclist because it's not uncommon for me to see the same people at each light during my commute. The effective traffic speed is doable for a cyclist. Speeding won't get you there faster.
I'll be sure to stay away from you.
> I used to know a paramedic who would make sure that the ride to the hospital for such a cyclist was super bumpy and unpleasant so as to make that experience memorable in the hopes of encouraging them not to repeat it.
That's sadistic. Most of the time it's not the cyclist's fault.
Plus, there have been many times when I've been on the receiving end of dangerous "punishment passes" from drivers who believe I'm doing something illegal when I'm not. I've had people pass me aggressively because they think I'm going too slow, when the speed limit is 15 mph and I'm going 17-18 mph. I've have people pass me while yelling to get in the bike lane when there was no bike lane and I was in the sharrow lane on an official city bike route. Etc. Just because you believe someone is breaking the law does not give you the right to kill or otherwise harm them, particularly if you're wrong about the law.
Edit: I believe I misread you about the paramedic. I read it as the paramedic would give rough rides to all cyclists (and most of the time it's not the cyclist's fault that they were in a crash), but you meant they gave rough rides to only cyclists who ran red lights or stop signs. That's still bad and sadistic as far as I'm concerned.
In the split second that my car is in an intersection and and such a person comes barreling through, the best I can do is slam on my brakes and hope for the best. I'm not even going to try to get out of the way because that could only make things worse by hitting another car or pedestrians who had nothing to do with the situation. If I had infinite time to respond I might be able to think this through, but we are talking less than a second of reaction time here. Really? This is worth it to you?
As much as I am in favor of cyclists and I am in favor of bike paths and every other variant thereof I do not get the incentive to save 30 to 60 seconds dodging a traffic signal versus the cost of what happens if it all goes wrong and I don't think I ever will.
Downvote this at will. This thread had me on the verge of deleting my Hacker News account but then I found out you can't do that. So I am posting this final response to say that this is what I think and if someone won't hire me because I think this way I probably don't want to work for them.
As for that paramedic, he didn't start that way. There used to be this particularly obnoxious cyclist in his town that made a habit of flying through intersections and taking his hands off the handlebars and giving the fingers to all the cars he cut in front of. One day he got hit and broke his leg cursing the driver that hit him the whole time. Said paramedic was the one who took him to the hospital knowing exactly who he was and what he had been up to. I still think the guy was a Darwin award in the making and he probably died later on in life if he continued doing crap like this. If that makes me a despicable human being then I am a despicable human being.
Add on top of that the belief of many drivers that their own law breaking is acceptable, speeding in particular. Speeding is a contributor to roughly 10,000 traffic fatalities per year while running red lights is a contributor in only 700-800. Speeding is clearly a bigger problem, yet cyclists in particular running red lights gets more attention than speeding. (Likely the vast majority of traffic fatalities from running red lights don't involve cyclists at all.) One of the points of my first post in this discussion was that speeding should also be seen as unacceptable, but many of the replies I received focused on how cyclists running red lights is unacceptable and that speeding is fine. In other words, many people missed the point.
That behaviour is incompatible with a professional registration. (At least, in England it would be.)
There is however a good rule I heard was in use somewhere: Cyclists can regard stop signs as yield signs, and red lights as stop signs.
My broader point is that cyclists running red lights gets a lot of attention, but ultimately drivers speeding causes much more harm, yet that is accepted by society at large.
As a cyclist you filter to the front so you just don't see this as often as it happens. Statistically there are more cars on the roads than bicycles so the majority or red light jumping is almost certainly by cars. On a bike it is just a bit more blatant with turns on left (UK) made that motorists would never do if there was a red light stopping them.
Jumping pedestrian crossings - 'pelican crossings' - is another thing. Cyclists get this wrong but there is also a lot of common sense, if people have crossed already, why stop? Plus if the traffic was cyclists and buses then these crossings would not be needed.
Funny the flack you have got here.
Over the years I've noticed some people seem to think that merely categorizing an argument is enough to refute it, but you need to explain why arguments in a particular category are bad.
(Yes, I am aware this post may be perceived as an example of the bad argument I just mentioned, though I did justify it.)
I thought it was safer if cycling on roads, to ride forward on to the one coming traffic, rather than have traffic come up from behind you.
Wrong way cycling is much much more dangerous than right way from what I understand.
You might want to look at something other than fatalities, sure, but this simple analysis suggests that speeding is more than an order of magnitude worse.
Edit: And if we look at the total number of people killed in traffic by cyclists each year, I don't even know where to start, because it seems to occur so infrequently that no one keeps statistics on it. I'd be very surprised if it were more than 5 per year.
It's precisely the difference in the incidence of the behavior that matters here though. I don't have specific numbers, but I think it's a very safe claim that most drivers speed far more often than they run red lights. Many a commuter will be speeding a large percentage of the time they are not in a traffic jam. On the other hand, I don't see of any people in the US that just run any and all red lights as a matter of course. And why does it happen that way? Because we realize that running a red light in most circumstances is crazy dangerous. People tend to try to avoid extremely dangerous behavior if they can help it, so you will find few fatalities per year, but that's because almost nobody does it. How many Americans die each year to Russian roulette? Probably fewer than either red lights or speeding, although I'd say playing Russian roulette is far more dangerous than either.
Given the numbers you found, running a red light would be just as dangerous as speeding if people ran a red light 13 times less often than they speed (for whichever time definition we choose for a unit of speeding). I suspect that people speed far more often than that, compared to running red lights.
We are in a similar boat regarding people killed in traffic by cyclists. How many cyclist-hours do we see in US roads, vs cars? There's also probably very few people killed in the US by being killed by T-35 tanks running red lights, but that's not because T-35s are safe and we should just use them and then ignore traffic signals. Running someone over with a bicycle while running a red light is still probably far less dangerous than acting the same way in a car, or an old T-35, but we can't tell that just by looking at fatalities alone.
The original point was that speeding is dangerous to others and normalized by society, but a cyclist running a red light is not dangerous to others, but it is not normalized. Speeding drivers kill 10k people a year. Cyclists running red lights kill less than 1 a year on average.
Running a red light is pretty dangerous in almost any context. Running red lights consistently will 100% yield accidents.
Speeding is normative, it's something that everyone does, every single time they drive.
For speeding up to 20K above limit, you often don't get a ticket. Doing 120 on a 100 km/h road is normative. If it was 'very dangerous' the police could easily enforce a 100 cap.
Running red lights consistently will probably kill you, and if a cop sees you doing it, you will 100% get pulled over.
-No attachments like dashcams on the windshield in NJ. Fine if you attach it to the dash instead and it goes to the same spot. Arbitrary and useless.
-Technically illegal to turn left across a solid yellow in many states. Universally ignored.
-Speed limits often too low, sometimes too high.
-Can't go through yellow lights in some states
But what that really means is that enforcement is at the discretion of the police--which in turn means that, for example, many localities have speed traps where they all of a sudden enforce the posted limit strictly in order to increase their revenue. Or police have a quota of a certain number of tickets per month, and if it's towards the end of the month and they're having trouble meeting quota, they pick some locations and decide to strictly enforce the speed limits there until they have enough tickets for the month.
All of this just reinforces my point that the posted speed limit is not set on the basis of preventing accidents, but for other reasons.
The road's natural limit is what the road should be. Of course, there's souped up muscle cars and the like that can run 150mph all day.. But those kinds of cars are outliers. I'm talking about the 2 lane road that used to be 45 near our house, that got shoved to 35. Or 55->30->55 within a half mile for bumfucksville... but that cop is sitting right there on the 30.
I agree with the principle, but I don't think that in practice this principle can be satisfied by having a posted speed limit that you can be ticketed for exceeding. The "natural limit" of a road is not a single number. It depends on many factors, some of which (e.g., weather, driver skill/fatigue) can't even be known when a single number is being determined for a posted limit.
If posted limits were advisory only--in other words, you could not be ticketed simply for exceeding a posted limit, but if you were in an accident, the fact that you were exceeding a posted limit could be considered as a factor in determining fault--that would be different.
Conversely, I do think that we should be ticketed for "hazardous driving" (weaving in and out of cars, cutting people off, and other things that directly lead to wrecks), failure to stop at signs and lights, failure to yield when other cars present.
There also have been many times in which I have driven significantly under the posted limit because the conditions severely prevented it. Driving at the posted limit would also have been hazardous.
Conversely, driving 80 on the interstate while staying in a group of others going 80 +/-3 is not hazardous. Yet, that would get us ticketed in a jurisdiction where I am not a voter. Hence, my complaint of 'taxation without representation'. It also nearly guarantees my agreement of guilt, as they're counting on me not able to make it back for a court date.
(Sigh, gotta love the downvoters. Actual discussion is just 'too' hard.)
I don't either, but current speeding laws allow cops to do so.
> I do think that we should be ticketed for "hazardous driving" (weaving in and out of cars, cutting people off, and other things that directly lead to wrecks), failure to stop at signs and lights, failure to yield when other cars present.*
I don't think we should be ticketed for any of these things, if they do not cause an accident. But if you are in an accident and it is found that you did any of these things, they should be valid factors to consider in assigning responsibility.
> There also have been many times in which I have driven significantly under the posted limit because the conditions severely prevented it.
Yes, I agree. In other words, you, exercising your judgment, have a much better knowledge of what is actually a safe speed than the lawmakers and bureaucrats that determined what went on the posted speed limit sign.
No, it isn't, because if they get in an accident you hold them responsible, and when their insurance company finds out the accident was the result of driving like crazy, they either drastically raise their rates or terminate their policy altogether. Plus it would be perfectly reasonable for the state to revoke their driver's license if they caused an accident due to driving like crazy.
The problem with the system we have today is that (a) we punish people who have not caused harm, and (b) when people do cause harm, we are hesitant to hold them responsible to the extent I described above. Lose your insurance and your license because of one accident? Wow, that seems really harsh. Do they really deserve that? My response is, if they really were driving like crazy, then yes, they do deserve that, because they should have known better. But our current system doesn't seem to like taking that position.