Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Caution: Transportation is Dangerous to Your Health (?)

Several recent accidents and travel raise the question; Is it too dangerous to travel by plane, train, or bus? Is transportation dangerous? The most publicized accident was the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on July 6, 2013 on approach to San Francisco International Airport. The pilots came up short in a visual landing on a clear day. Three passengers died and 181 were injured. The cause was clearly pilot error. None of the three pilots in the cockpit realized they were coming too low and slow until it was too late. Two Southwest pilots last week on July 21 also proved at LaGuardia they could not safely land a plane. They landed nose gear first rather the tail first. The nose wheels cannot sustain the force of a nose first landing. Fortunately no one died in the accident. 10 passengers were injured. Again, pilot error is undoubtedly the cause of the accident. Train accidents have come to the fore in recent days. July 6 witnessed a non- passenger train in Canada killing at least 47 and leveling 40 buildings. The train of 72 rail cars was lying at rest in the small town of Lac Margentic, Quebec. The engineer claims to have set the hand brakes. The engine was left running to keep the air brakes locked. The train was carrying crude oil from the Bakken Field in North Dakota to a refinery in northern Canada. A fire broke out. The firefighters shut down the engine in fighting the fire. The railroad now claims, for litigation purposes, that shutting off the locomotive released the brakes, which cause the tank cars to start their unimpeded trip to the center of town in the middle of the night. Some of the cars derailed with a fire and massive explosion following. 47 town residents died while 40 buildings were leveled by the blast. A high speed train on the Paris-Lyon run derailed in Bretigny-Sur-Orge in France on July 12. Six passengers died and over 200 injured. The cause was a bad piece of tax. A high speed train, at twice the recommended speed, derailed in going through a slow curve, on July 24. The driver (engineer) said the brakes failed, but he had apparently ignored warnings to start slowing the train 2 ½ miles from the curve. He was apparently doing 190KMH through the curve, which is posted at 80KMH. Speed kills. Francisco Jose Garzon has been indicted on 79 counts of manslaughter. Earlier today two passenger trains collided head-on in Switzerland. 44 injuries and perhaps one fatality occurred from the crash. Any head-on collision by trains will usually involve engineer error. A bus returning from a youth camp in Northern Michigan took an exit curve too fast at 4:15 on I 465 in Indianapolis, Three passengers died, including a pastor and his pregnant wife. The driver said the brakes failed. The good news about bus accidents is that they usually will not result in scores of casualties because of the relatively low capacity of busses. A bus driver in Arizona on the Vegas – Grand Canyon Skywalk yesterday did not notice the flood warning. He drove the 33 passengers into a flooded wash at 1:50PM. Fortunately all 33 passengers walked out of the crash. Conversely, a driver in Italy yesterday crashed into several cars, bumper car style, slowed by heavy traffic, and then plunged into a ravine. At least 37 died. These recent accidents suggest that transportation is a high risk activity. The opposite is the case. It’s still much riskier driving to the airport than in catching the flight. We learn of these accidents because they are publicized because of their extreme rarity. No human activity is risk free. We learn from accidents how to minimize the risk in the future. No rules, safety standards, procedures, or measures can totally eliminate human error. Modern means of transportation are so much safer, convenient, and faster than the older methods of stage coach, wagon train, horse and bugger, pack mules, camels and donkeys. The last passenger airline crash in the United States was in 2009. That’s quite a safety record!

No comments: