May 3, 2010 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Looking at a Traffic Accident Using Safeguards Analysis


Do you remember Lori’s face?

Her accident and the subsequent prosecution for vehicular homicide were the topics of a previous posting and extensive comments.

But I don’t think we learned all that we could from that blog article. So, I’m going to resume the discussion and learning here.

Instead of continuing with the blame-focused arguments of the previous post, I’d like readers to consider this …

If you have to develop corrective actions that would keep this accident from EVER happening again, what Safeguards would you use?

Let’s do a simple Safeguards Analysis to get this process started.

The Hazard?

A moving vehicle.

The Target?

The pedestrian.

The current Safeguards:

  1. The driver sees the pedestrian and takes action to avoid him or her (no matter when the pedestrian steps out).
  2. The pedestrian looks both ways before crossing a road to avoid any traffic.

The first safeguard is impacted by driver training, laws, driver attention, driver distraction, visibility, and many other factors.

The second safeguard is impacted by pedestrian alertness, laws, visibility, the “walk”/”Don’t Walk” lights (or lack thereof), and many other factors.

If we want to prevent this accident from happening again, should we concentrate on improving the two existing safeguards? Or should we consider other safeguards or remove the Hazard or the Target?

In this example, the Gwinnett police decided to make an example of Lori Reineke by prosecuting her for vehicular homicide. What do you think? Will this stop these kinds of accidents from happening again by getting drivers to be more alert? Can drivers be totally alert all the time to avoid pedestrians who walk in front of them?

Another angle could be to focus on pedestrians. To try to make them more alert. (Do you remember your mother’s warnings to look both ways before you cross the street?) Perhaps we could install additional auditory warnings if a sensor detected a moving pedestrian when the “don’t walk” sign is lit?

It would be pretty difficult to remove the Hazard. We probably can’t remove all vehicles from the road.

Also, it is difficult to remove the target. We probably can’t eliminate pedestrians.

What about maintaining separation? Can we have pedestrian overpasses (underpasses) to keep pedestrians and traffic separated?

Or should we try to reduce the impact? How slow should the speed limit be? What about airbags in the bumper that deploy when a pedestrian impact is just about to occur?

Now you are starting to think about Safeguards … and not just placing blame.

What do you think? What kind of additional safeguards can we find? Leave your ideas here.

Also, can we meet our goal of “never” having this kind of accident happen again?

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