After the collision between the Ride the Ducks and the tour bus I’ve been hearing a bit more of the “VISION ZERØ” initiative that’s been worked on by Seattle for a while now.

They had recorded interviews along the lines of:

“How many traffic deaths are acceptable for Washington per year?”
“[various answers that have some non-zero answer]”
“How many traffic deaths are acceptable for your family?”
“Well, none!”

Easy to say.

Easy for a marketer to say.

Every time you leave your house (actually, strike that, even at home) every second you spend in the act of being alive, you are incurring a chance that something bad may happen.

Even in vastly regulated fields, like airlines, where the amount of record keeping, maintenance, training, and everything else the FAA mandates there are accidents.

Some of those accidents are caused by simple human error. Some are caused by nature. Some are caused by our own misunderstanding of how these physical phenomena interact.

If something like airlines can’t be made to be 100% safe, how can we possibly get our present fleet of rickety beaters driven by idiots to be better than airlines? Even if we get to self-driving cars (which will take many decades to phase in) there will inevitably be both hardware and software failures.

The only way to get to zero issues is to outlaw roads.

Now I’m not saying don’t do anything to try to mitigate the problems on our roads. A recent  statistic is 1.5 fatalities per 100,000,000 miles driven. This is already, honestly, pretty good. And from an engineering perspective you have to take into account the failure rate of whatever system you’re designing. As bad as some of these mistakes are — someone dying — it’s an inevitable occurrence when you start measuring things in things per billion miles driven.

I guess this is just my frustration that typical person doesn’t understand statistics.

Do I want things to be safer? Yes. Do I want to spend all of the money to get it to 0? No, because it simply won’t work.

Do I want to spend some money to get measurable incremental gains? Yes.

The government can’t make you safe. It can help institute things that can improve safety. But you should not attempt to delegate your safety to the government. The government is there to regulate, tax, and fine. Much like the police are not obliged to protect you (look it up, it’s true), ensuring one’s safety is not the government’s responsibility.