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31 August 2006
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Near-Miss

So here I am driving along minding my own business when this big truck on my left cuts into my lane.  Not ahead of me, not behind me, but right next to me!  I don't know if he saw me or not, but he's trying to force me into the right lane, and there's a car in the way!  Fortunately the truck wasn't changing lanes rapidly and so I was able to disengage the cruise control, slow down to let the car on the right pass, and get into the right lane.  If the truck were changing any faster I would have had to use my brakes!  I could have been killed!   I tried to get his license....Blah blah police blah blah blah truckers should be more blah blah...

And so forth.  If you are one of the 300 million drivers in the United States*, your reaction to that story was that after half of the first sentence you stopped paying attention, and if you got to the blah blah blah you were probably just waiting for me to reach the end so you could tell of your own near-death experience.  (No, I don't care about yours any more than you care about mine.  If you tell me the story after you actually have died, then we may be onto something.)

Someone Cares!

Have I got news for you!  There is someone, somewhere, in these great United States who actually cares about your story, and maybe even about mine.  He is Dr. Jeffrey Hadley, and he has a mission.  After you survive your wild ostrich encounter or whatever, Dr. Hadley invites you to his web site to tell him all about it.  Will he read your report?  I don't know.  But I came across this site and, as usual,  have repurposed it, this time converting a valuable, life-enhancing, science-advancing project into a vehicle for personal catharsis.  I did not ask Dr. Hadley's permission to do this, but I suspect that anyone who makes honest reports is welcome, regardless of motive.

I commented to him in an email that this is similar to the NASA program in which airplane pilots can report safety hazards and, in effect "immunize" themselves from prosecution if they report a violation before the FAA finds out about it.  This is a special boon because most of the safety hazards they report are events in which they are the cause or at least are reluctant participants.  The NASA program does have a lot of value, not just for individual pilots but for the airspace system as well.  It has probably prevented many accidents and incidents.  Of course a similar program for autos can't be the equivalent, in terms of "immunity."  If you have a near miss on the highway, the government normally doesn't send you a certified letter three months later asking for an explanation.  Even so, Dr. Hadley's mission seems valuable and likely to enhance driving safety.

Whether you have a "routine" near-miss or you drive under an overpass right before an earthquake destroys it, crushing the school bus behind you, please be sure to fill in Dr. Hadley's form.  Uniform statistics are dull statistics.


* I am well aware that there aren't 300 million licensed drivers in the United States.  It just seems that way.  And if you count backseat drivers, screaming kidlets, and restless pets there may well be more.

2006
Richard Factor