AvatarFleet exists to make the world a safer place. It’s in our DNA. It’s the fire in our belly when we come to work each morning. But what does it mean to make the world a safer place? Is the world actually dangerous? The answer is, yes. Safety is defined as freedom from risk. By that definition, we can never be safe. Our best hope is to avoid risk.
Which brings us to rubber baby buggy bumpers. 40 years ago, when I was raising little ones, we had utilitarian baby buggies. Nothing more than a cheap aluminum frame with a vinyl seat all mounted on four chintzy wheels. Somehow, the kids survived. In fact, now they have their own kids and we all went to the zoo last week. As we approached the baboon exhibit, there were dozens of baby buggies lined up against the retaining wall.
You Can’t Be 100% Safe, But We’ve Been Trying
To my surprise, these were not the baby buggies of 1975. These were tricked out like an S-class Benz. They had layers of padding, dozens of pockets for carrying baby supplies, three-point seat belts and best of all, big rubber bumpers. I started to wonder just how fast you’d have to be pushing a baby buggy to need rubber bumpers and seat belts. Remember, my kids survived in baby buggies that were nothing more than a cheap shopping cart.
Why all the new features? The answer lies in mankind’s collective pursuit to make the world a safer place. It seems we’re not alone at AvatarFleet. Parents love their children and want to keep them safe, and the baby buggy makers have accommodated. Over the years, they’ve added safety features to make their buggies more appealing to a new generation of helicopter parents who want to protect their snowflake kids.
Maybe today’s baby buggies are safer than yesteryear, I don’t know. No one has published accident results for baby buggy fatalities. However, I do have statistics on trucking safety and I have some surprising news. Things are not getting better.
Technology Does Not Make You Safer...
Just like the baby buggy people, OEM truck manufacturers have been adding safety features at an ever-accelerating pace. We call these features engineering controls – attempts to make the trucks dummy-proof. Today’s modern tractor trailer has speed control, better lights, anti-lock brakes, multiple cameras, proximity warning-devices, anti-rollover equipment, electronic logs, GPS and a host of other devices intended to make the truck, the driver and the general population safer. So, how’s that working out? Not so good.
...Because Human Behavior Is What Leads to Accidents
That’s because accidents are always the result of human behavior. Empty trucks and buses, even those without engineering controls, don’t have accidents. It takes a driver to have an accident. That’s because drivers make mistakes. Accidents are the result of mistakes. Sometimes your drivers make an honest mistake, like when they don’t know how to handle a particular situation. That’s when outcome based training comes in handy. But a lot of times, the mistakes are the result of a poor choice. Many accidents happen when the driver chooses speed, schedule or simplicity over doing the right thing.
Here’s the eye opener: The more engineering controls you slap on the truck, the more likely your driver is to take unnecessary risks. NFL players suffer significantly more serious injuries Australian rugby players have. Why? Because, when they’re wearing all those pads and helmets, they feel invincible. This is called risk homeostasis. As we’ve discussed before, people are always willing to allow a certain level of risk in exchange for a pay off, like more yards in football or arriving someplace faster in your car. As you get these little payoffs, your acceptable level of risk may increase and you start to take certain behaviors like using your turn signal or looking before you switch lanes for granted.
This is especially true where technology is involved. For example, a few years back, when they installed anti-lock brakes on London’s taxis, the following distance accidents increased 30%! Why? Because the drivers felt safer. They assumed the new brakes would allow them follow even more closely than before, so they did, leading to more collisions.
If you want to reduce accidents, you have to focus on your drivers. Hire only risk-averse, compliant and conscientious drivers. Once hired, teach them how to avoid collisions through a superior defensive driving system. Risky behavior can be minimized if drivers are trained and conditioned to not take risks on the road. The same goes for baby buggies. Rubber bumpers aren’t the answer. Just tell mom to slow down as she approaches the baboon cage.