Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


And this is how you die
December 2, 2011 4:02 PM   Subscribe

How do people die in motor "accidents"? I'll tell you. With the Christmas "Silly Season" is upon us, the Age has republished And this is how you die by journalist Roger Aldridge. A warning - it's pretty graphic. Scroll up for the rest of the article.
posted by mattoxic (95 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cars are safer than they were in 1972. Seat belt use is almost universal. Kids are either in safety seats or also seat belted in. Emergency responders carefully remove the car from around the victim rather than just yank them out. It's a whole different scenario now.

And yet people still die.
posted by tommasz at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2011


I'm not sure about the efficacy of campaigns like this, but I don't care that much. What struck me is that And this is how you die is a beautiful piece. As close to poetry as any journalism I've ever seen.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:11 PM on December 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


Seriously,
And men hanging from halfopen car doors; flung rag dolls of men embracing steel power pylons; men skewered on steering columns; men whose faces are gone, as if nibbled by rats.
is up there with Ginsberg.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:12 PM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Seat belt use is almost universal

Since coming over to the US and Canada from the UK, it was a serious jolt to notice just how many people don't wear seat belts over here. They are not at all universal.

Just amongst smart people.
posted by Brockles at 4:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Silly season"?
posted by everichon at 4:13 PM on December 2, 2011


It's been pretty well established that scare tactics don't have much impact in terms of reducing accidents. That said... something like this probably does have a tremendous effect on someone who has lost a loved one in an accident.

My suggestion folks, don't read this.
posted by tomswift at 4:14 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Silly season"

Is a term we use in Australia to describe the lead up to Christmas.
posted by mattoxic at 4:17 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


something like this probably does have a tremendous effect on someone who has lost a loved one in an accident.

Had a pretty tremendous effect on me, though I've never lost a loved one to a car accident.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:19 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, if you do read it, here's the start of a play list for you:

These are People Who Have Died
Dead Man's Curve
posted by tomswift at 4:21 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first user comment describes driving in the eighties - i drove like that. Every Friday night home from the pub, absolutely full of beer.

We would race like idiots - dumb luck indeed.
posted by mattoxic at 4:21 PM on December 2, 2011


"It's cool to drive fast!"
posted by koeselitz at 4:23 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's been pretty well established that scare tactics don't have much impact in terms of reducing accidents.

A friend once told me I drive like an old man because I like to stay within 5 mph pf the speed limit, at least on surface roads. This was a person who'd lost a leg in a car accident.
posted by longsleeves at 4:24 PM on December 2, 2011


Others die intact. Ruptured inside, you understand, but un-harmed to look at.

The two fatal accidents I've come across were both exactly like this.

For a split second, I honestly thought there were asleep. "Why are these two people asleep in the middle of the freeway like this? Don't they know they've been in an accident?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:28 PM on December 2, 2011


Every Friday night home from the pub, absolutely full of beer.

Shamefully, I was still doing this into my mid-twenties. Sometimes so drunk that it took all my concentration to stay in my lane. At least at some point I realized that killing other people wasn't something I was into, and I'd have enough trouble fending off heart disease and cancer. No need to really stack the deck.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:33 PM on December 2, 2011


That was well written, and very unpleasant to read.
posted by everichon at 4:37 PM on December 2, 2011


I was in a crash last week - hit by a guy running a red light - GODDAMN I'm glad I was wearing my seat belt. (This is what it looked like from the inside of my truck.) Also, thankful for crumple zones.

Also, as I skimmed (because I didn't want to cry), and got to the part about burning to death, I thought of my best friend from junior high & high school, who was burned over 85% of her body in a car crash when she was 10. (Which, reading the article, I realize I never entirely understood what had happened. Also, the quote about pinching her therapist is (a) vintage Thao and (b) cracks me up, because now she's a psychiatrist.) The last time I saw her, when we were both in college, she was still about as disfigured (there really isn't another word for it) as when we first met.

And now I realize I really miss Thao, and I need to track down her email/postal address. We haven't talked in quite a while.
posted by epersonae at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Russians were criticised in the 1930s for severing a dog's head and keeping it clinically alive for a number of hours.
[citation needed]
posted by brokkr at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


...here's the start of a play list for you:

The rest of it can be found here, and as usual, at AskMe.
posted by TedW at 4:43 PM on December 2, 2011


This post needs a cold chef bat signal on it. If I could ask cold chef one question it would be does he turn his cell phone off before he buckles his seat belt and shifts his car into gear. (I am thinking he probably does.)
posted by bukvich at 4:43 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once experimented with time lapse photographing my commute across the 24-mile Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Half-way through one of my early experiments (not the ones on YouTube now) one of my coworkers yelled "Go faster! You're driving like a little girl! Everyone is passing you!" At a virtual speed of about 700 MPH. Of course, I was driving a bit below the speed limit so as not to have to shift lanes, for the time lapse. But he couldn't stand to watch people passing him, even on a computer replay while driving faster than a jetliner.
posted by localroger at 4:47 PM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised an endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions: The lungs of elderly men punctured by door-handles; the chests of young women impaled on steering-columns; the cheek of handsome youths torn on the chromium latches of quarter-lights. To Vaughan, these wounds formed the key to a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology. The images of these wounds hung in the gallery of his mind, like exhibits in the museum of a slaughterhouse.
posted by Nelson at 4:53 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


[citation needed]

Ask some biologists.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:58 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


A former colleague of mine was a real-life Mr Wheeler/Walker from Disney's Motor Mania cartoon. I could never understand how such a gentle, soft-spoken and reasonable person could, once he stepped behind the wheel, turn into a lunatic who seemed intent on killing himself, his passengers and anyone on his way. He once drove a few of us to a funeral and ten years later we're still not sure that we're actually alive.
posted by elgilito at 5:04 PM on December 2, 2011


. . . is up there with Ginsburg.

Scalia's dissenting opinion was no less graphic or disturbing, but for quite different reasons.
posted by clorox at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's competitive driving season in Austin. I almost had two wrecks in the 20 mph zone in front of my kid's school yesterday morning, trying to drop him off. There were other people driving other cars who were determined to drop their kids off first! Okay, you win. Whatever it is you won. Have fun with it.

People race me to red lights - I let off the gas when I see one upcoming, then they run up on my bumper, swerve suddenly into the next lane, run past me, then swerve back into the one I was using, in front of me. They beat me to the red light -- I lost.

Lateral driving is more popular than ever -- this is people driving in directions other than the one the road goes in - popping out of driveways, sidestreets, dashing into the turn lane so they can merge with traffic, getting diagonal in the turn lane and the straight lane and blocking cars behind them, presumably intentionally - god forbid we'd get past them before they made their left turn, or they'd lose. No one wants to be a loser in traffic, any more. Everyone on the road is sick and fucking tired of every one else's shit, no one's going to take it any more, and no one is going to budge an inch for anyone else -- that's weak, and that's losing.

People stare at me in astonishment when I let them out of a driveway instead of crowding up to the red light and cutting them off, or slow down to let them over when they turn on a blinker, because it's just... not done. People don't even know what courtesy is when faced with it. The brain can't even register a response.

I want out of the city -- far enough into the hill country that the lone car coming in the opposite direction is being piloted by someone who's surely going to wave hi. Out in the hinterlands, always wave, because that's the guy who may be pulling over to help you out in a few hours, if you break down or have a flat. Those are the kinds of people I want to drive around - not the stony-faced, "winners" who would rather see you dead than to let up enough to lose 30 precious seconds in their ultimate race for roadway supremacy.

I think I need the hell out of town.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2011 [47 favorites]


This blog entry by a police officer I read a couple of months ago had the senselessness of it all down: ....and then there was silence
posted by ambrosen at 5:06 PM on December 2, 2011 [29 favorites]


ambrosen: "This blog entry by a police officer I read a couple of months ago had the senselessness of it all down: ....and then there was silence"

Ok, that was fucking horrific.

posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Death is not instantaneous. Rather, it comes in a matter of minutes. There is no pain as we know it ... nothing sharp, exquisite, searing. It is an inner numbness, a bubbling frothing thing and a terrible inability to breathe."

This is the worst thing I have ever read.
posted by Drumhellz at 5:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


During my college years, I had a job that involved making thousands and thousands of color copies of glossy photos of horrible car accidents and their victims. The photos were of accidents that had occurred from about the mid-1950s through the 1990s. I saw lots of pictures of really horrible, tragic, disturbing stuff. It did have some effect on my driving habits, as well as my choices of what cars to buy and drive. But I was already in the habit of always wearing my seatbelt, having been nearly killed in a wreck when I was in high school and escaped major injury because I was wearing one at the time.
posted by The World Famous at 5:14 PM on December 2, 2011


ambrosen, thanks. That post is unreal.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2011


> Lateral driving is more popular than ever

Gawd, this reminds me of the accident in Adaptation. No front & rear crumple zones and big fluffy airbags to save your ass getting t-boned coming out of a driveway even at 25 or 30 MPH. Those side-curtain things are supposed to help, but they sure don't have much space to work in.
posted by morganw at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2011


Ambrosen - that was chilling. Thank you.
posted by twirlypen at 5:32 PM on December 2, 2011


campaigns like this

Is it a campaign?
posted by stbalbach at 5:53 PM on December 2, 2011


I think more Americans died in auto accidents in the past 35 years, than in all American wars combined since 1775 (source).
posted by stbalbach at 6:19 PM on December 2, 2011


When I took driver's ed they made us watch Signal 30. You can watch it here and here. (WARNING: contains graphic death.) Pretty much like the article, only in pictures.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2011


But, if you do read it, here's the start of a play list for you:

These are People Who Have Died
Dead Man's Curve

Last Kiss, which I heard way too much of working retail once upon a time, and is what I think of when someone mentions a car crash/accident song.

In fact, the genre appears to be a thing.

(also, for the end of the playlist, not-necessarily-a-car-crash super-depresso death song: What Sarah Said)
posted by curious nu at 6:22 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My Baby's The Star Of A Driver's Ed Movie
posted by hippybear at 7:05 PM on December 2, 2011


Oooh this reminds me of drivers ed! The school I signed up for didn't cover things like traffic laws or parallel parking-- I had no idea that was the norm. Every week, they'd pop in a VHS and we'd watch and discuss horrific accident videos for a couple hours.

15+ years later, my family still threatens to take me to driving school if I have the hiccups. It always works.
posted by Gable Oak at 7:07 PM on December 2, 2011


Passage
posted by Lina Lamont at 7:12 PM on December 2, 2011


Most car companies run commercials are about how fast you can go in their products, and show exciting visuals of their products being used dangerously and illegally. One company encouraged customers to drive their SUV's like sports cars - a good idea if you like rolling over. Zoom zoom, indeed. I wonder if I'm the only one bothered by this - no one else seems to be.

Then I think, well, banning such commercials would be like censorship. People like to drive fast and this appeals to them. Then I think what the outrage would be if someone began advertising bongs and rolling papers on TV...
posted by tommyD at 7:25 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter, Why you should wear your seatbelt.

Some of the most memorable quotes include, "You’d be surprised by how easily faces come off the facial bones," and "If you’re asking “Is it possible for a human femur to be pushed through the floor of the pelvis?” the answer is “Yes.” If you ask me how I know that, the answer is: “Seen it done.” Unrestrained driver, 40 MPH impact."

I always wear my seatbelt, even in cabs. (I had a prof who survived a serious side-impact crash in a cab, and credited his seatbelt for helping to save his life.)

Cars are safer than they were in 1972.

Yes. Amazingly so. The fact that safety ratings have gotten tougher, even in the last couple of years, and that safety is now both a selling point and a deal-breaker, mean that cars have been improving dramatically even quite recently.
posted by Dasein at 7:46 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two things:

1 - I guess it's due to exposure, but it always surprises me when people are surprised by the violence of car crashes. You know how some families are baseball families, and some are into football? I grew up in a racing family, so the consequences of what happens when things go wrong were readily apparent to me for as long as I could remember.

2 - Here's a teenage death song for you.
posted by Relay at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was on the feeder road of MOPAC freeway here in town, having just exited the freeway; my timing was good, I saw the pickup leave the freeway and come across the grass, down that hill, over the feeder road, smash through a line of trees. He was traveling at least the speed limit, perhaps more; I don't know. I saw this happen right in front of me. It was something.

I turned 'round, went back to see where his truck had ended up after smashing through that line of trees. Check it out; that truck literally went flying through the air—WAY in the air—through that tree line, flew across the road, and smacked into the back of a semi-dumptruck that was idling there, waiting to drop a load of stone.

The guy was alive.

His face was covered with a white powder; I'm assuming it's from the deployment of the air bag. But the air bag had to have gone off when he smacked into that tree-line—he took down a four inch tree, and that is no exaggeration. So he hit that dumptruck with his seat and shoulder belt his only protection.

Best I can figure it, he'd had his left arm on the drivers side window. With the window down. Also best I can figure, something tore it to pieces as it passed through that tree-line. I've never seen anything like it, outside a butcher shop, and in the butcher shop at least all the broken bones and meat are sawed straight across, and not snapped and ripped into bitty bloody pieces.

He kept on looking down at it. I kept on telling him to not look at it, to look at me, that I'd called the cop-shop, that help was on their way, just hang with me, no, really, quit looking at it, look at me. (Having seen myself in the mirror a few times, I sortof wonder if I'd not rather look a my chewed up arm, was I in his shoes; that might have been what was going on.) I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn't have the jam to touch it, but one of the truck drivers took off his belt or had a small chain or something, and twisted it around the guys arm, and held it, to stop the bleeding.

He hadn't been drinking, I was right there, I'd have smelled it; it was before I lost my sense of smell. Had he fallen asleep? Passed out for some reason? Heart attack maybe? He was a big guy, maybe fifties, early sixties, didn't look like a druggie, just A Regular Guy, a citizen. He was a bit dazed, as you might imagine, but not so dazed that he didn't know that it was his damn arm. He was fascinated by his arm, as I also was. I don't guess I'll ever forget it, and I don't guess I'll ever forget the look on his face. He wasn't happy, that's for sure.

So a cop shows up, and then another, and they're not doing anything, waiting for the ambulance same as the rest of us; the guy wasn't in any immediate danger, other than dying from whatever, but any moving we did wasn't likely to be helpful. I look a bit closer at a cop I was talking to—he was the same cop who'd ticketed me for speeding, a week or two before. That's why I always thank cops, even when they're ticketing me; they've got a hell of a job to do, they see more of real life in a month than most of us will ever see in our lives. Their divorce rates are through the roof. Female cops especially only want to date male cops, as no one else understands real life the way they do.
I know that I'd not thank a cop in NYC or LA or Oakland in the OWS stuff. It's really hard for me to square this stuff, and I like cops a lot less, to think that they'd go along with this jive. But that's another topic.

I've been in ± ten wrecks, three of those really major-league, the rest bitty fender-benders. All of them but one, I was driving, alcohol/drugs involved in two of the major wrecks, one of which I was the driver in. Two of the major league ones I walked away, pretty much uninjured, in one of them I had a cap on a front tooth knocked loose when a strut from underneath the semi came through the windshield, knocked off that cap, then back out of the windshield as we smashed off of it again and into the guardrails. Happened in less than a blink. Something.

Guess what? In both of the two that I walked away from, I was wearing my seat belt. Actually, I walked away from the other major league one also, even without the seat belt, but only because I've got a head like a rock; I'd smashed into the windshield, was kindof headed through it until my throat hit the dashboard, jerking my head down, smearing just lots of fun glass into my forehead and nose; I was picking glass out of my skin for over a month, it'd work it's way to the surface. Fun part: my nose had already started out the windshield, so when my head snapped down it sortof cut/ripped my nose; I could tip it, like a top-hat. It was swell! And it was sure fun watching the doc sew my damn nose back right, after he talked me into letting him do so by telling me calmly, slowly, dead seriously that I was a goddamn fool if I didn't let him fix it. He was a good doc, he could sew real well, the scar still visible but not prominent.

I'd told her I should have drove.

One thing I always think of when I think of the wrecks is how loud they are, even the small ones, the fender-benders. WHAMBANG!!!! but way bigger than that, astonishingly bigger than that. There are huge forces involved and you can sure hear that.

And also how fast they can happen—one of my fender-benders, I was driving through on a green arrow, maybe 20-25mph, some woman came through between two cars just like Devils Rancher wrote about above, she was smack-dab in front of me, I didn't even have time to hit the skids WHAM!!! smacked the shit out of her. She was a terrible driver; I crunched the only part of her little shitty import pickup that hadn't been crunched previous. She was sure disappointed; she tried to get me to not turn it in to the cops, I'm like "no way." she clearly didn't have much money but she had insurance. Who knows how she got that? Not I.

When I moved to Texas, you could drink and drive, legally. I thought I'd gone to heaven. You weren't supposed to drive drunk of course but everybody did, okay not everybody but I sure wasn't the only one; in Houston the freeways were like bumper-cars. Plus everybody had pistols in their cars! It was something. Texas is totally different now, there is no tolerance at all. (For drunk driving; still plenty of guns.) I'm pretty sure that the game that Texas DPS plays is just like the security theater in the airports, a ruse to usurp our rights, to get citizens used to any authority figure to search them, their belongings, their vehicles, to take blood and/or saliva samples for christ sakes. That said, they will still bust your butt in a heartbeat if your drunk behind the wheel, and can't even have open containers in the vehicle anymore. A different world.

A better world, for that. I remember a singer/songwriter talking about a visit he had to Europe, and he went drinking in a bar with some locals, and they came out of the bar and they started walking that way and he says "Hey, the car is this way." and they looked at him as if he had a tuba sticking out of his forehead, said "We've been drinking, we're walking." If the US adopted absolute No Tolerance laws about drinking/drugging behind the wheel, the death rates would have to go down. No Tolerance IE if you drink/drug and get caught, one time, you lose your driving privileges for the rest of your life, and no way out of it. There would be about fourteen people in each city lose their license, for good, and everybody else would get the picture, and this whole insane show would stop.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2011 [18 favorites]


No Tolerance IE if you drink/drug and drive and get caught,

I've got no problem with drinking or drugging, it's the driving part I'm talking of.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2011


It is an inner numbness, a bubbling frothing thing and a terrible inability to breathe

They tell us that tension pneumothorax is the number 2 cause of battlefield death. Bu tyou don't expect to treat the Interstate like a battlefield.

I'm putting a couple chest seals and a 14 gauge needle in the kit, just in case.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:20 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is as good a time as any to take note of our reactions to car collisions ("accidents"). An analogy of a driver privilege checklist captures the strange blind spot we generate for ourselves:
1. If I am hurt or killed while driving, unless I am intoxicated or grossly negligent, I will not be blamed for my decision to drive.
5. If my child is injured or killed while in my car, I will not be blamed for their death unless I was intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent.
6. If while driving I injure or kill another person ... unless I am intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent this will be seen nothing more than a regrettable accident.
posted by anthill at 8:44 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Others die intact. Ruptured inside, you understand, but un-harmed to look at.
The two fatal accidents I've come across were both exactly like this.

For a split second, I honestly thought there were asleep. "Why are these two people asleep in the middle of the freeway like this? Don't they know they've been in an accident?"



Two weeks ago, I was on my way to the closest city to me to have lunch with a friend. I let a truck (delivery type) pass me on a road that goes from four lanes down to two lanes.

A minute or so later, a car hit one car, then swerved into our lane doing above the speed limit, hitting the truck head on. I was directly behind the truck, ended up in the other lane, for a moment. As soon as I could, I backed into the lane I started in, hit the 9 on my phone and got the local police dispatcher.

She asked me if everyone was okay. I got out of my car, cane in one hand, phone in the other, walked to the truck, driver was getting out. A minute later I walked forward to the car, and saw that the driver was sitting upright, but his neck was just at the wrong angle, it just looked wrong.

I set my cane down to check for a pulse, of course there was none, I told the dispatcher, and walked back to my car. While, I had seen, and cleaned, bodies after death (I was a CNA in a nursing home prior to becoming disabled) it was nowhere near the same as putting your hand on a person who has just died a minute or two prior to touching them.

He was still warm a you and me. If there is a soul, and I believe there is, it would have still been right there, barely ripped from him.

While we were sitting at the scene afterward, a woman who had been following him for 20plus miles stated he had been swerving for some time. I don't know if he was drunk, drugged, or having a medical emergency as it hasn't been reported. Article in the local paper about accident.

He wasn't wearing a seat belt at the time of his death. While, we don't know if he would've lived, he sure would have had more of a chance if he had it on. And, possibly wouldn't have traumatized the truck driver, the driver of the car, me, and all the other people who were there.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:19 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


anthill: " this driver privilege checklist" is just great; thanx so much for that link. Austin has a sortof rep in the US as a bicycle city—what a joke! A bike city would have dedicated lanes, and by dedicated lanes I mean lanes with big, fat concrete curbs to keep cars, trucks, buses out of the, and hey, if the street became too narrow to have three auto lanes each way and a bike lane also, the bike lane wouldn't be eliminated; rather, a car lane would be eliminated.

Lip service only, here in Austin; yeah, it's true, I was born at night. But not last night. They've painted some lines on the streets, for bike lanes, as if anyone in a car or truck who doesn't like people "getting in their way" would give a damn, would give any room at all if not forced. Myself, I ride on sidewalks, they can ticket me if they want to.

SuzySmith: " a car hit one car, then swerved into our lane doing above the speed limit, hitting the truck head on."

And this is how fast it can happen. (No gore but very scary, as the wreck just comes out of nowhere, as in real life, which this was/is.)
posted by dancestoblue at 9:55 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My heart is racing now, dancestoblue, that is definitely how fast it happens. One minute everything was fine, the next it just wasn't.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:59 PM on December 2, 2011


Others die intact. Ruptured inside, you understand, but un-harmed to look at.

Yeah, that's actually fairly common, or more common than you'd expect.

I wrote a piece for Wired about the death Bernd Rosemeyer, a German racer from the 1930s. He was killed in a land speed record attempt on an Autobahn. He was doing more than 260 and it was a huge crash, taking up nearly a quarter of a mile of roadway, but when they found Rosemeyer, he was lying in the grass and they thought he was sleeping.
posted by Relay at 10:09 PM on December 2, 2011


And this is how fast it can happen. (No gore but very scary, as the wreck just comes out of nowhere, as in real life, which this was/is.)

That fast = Of course! He's on the wrong goddamned side of the road.

THAT was something . . .
posted by eggman at 10:25 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got in a taxi on Thursday in Beijing to take my parents to see the Forbidden City. Put the seatbelt in the buckle, and it wouldn't lock properly. Taxi driver was all "it doesn't matter". It matters.

We got out, got the hotel to call another taxi up and checked the belts before getting in. We got to the Forbidden City 5 minutes later, and we had a great day.

Having been in one car wreck in Miami where we bounced off a tree and survived due to seat belts, I have no wish to travel in any vehicle without working belts. That includes you and your taxi, Mr. It Doesn't Matter. While you're at it, switch your damn mobile phone off.
posted by arcticseal at 11:25 PM on December 2, 2011


Another one for the playlist. New Moon
posted by calamari kid at 1:08 AM on December 3, 2011


Another big difference with 1972 - we give pain relief asap, no denial of pain relief until all the assessments are done. The local trauma team give ketamine if someone's had severe trauma and been trapped in their vehicle - which has the excellent side effect of messing with your memory, so most patients end up with no recollection of being trapped.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:18 AM on December 3, 2011


"Some people explode — like a thin plastic envelope full of offal which has been hurled against a brick wall. No pain." (Warning - link contains a graphic picture of a horse that got hit by a car)
posted by ymgve at 6:29 AM on December 3, 2011


You know, I never put on a seatbelt in a taxi, despite my experience being that taxi drivers are among the most terrifying assholes on the road. I should really change that habit.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:58 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's been pretty well established that scare tactics don't have much impact in terms of reducing accidents.

Money would work. A black box in the car tracks how you drive (speed, acceleration, etc.), then rats on you to your insurance company, which adjusts your insurance rate appropriately. If you had to pay almost nothing to be a safe driver and pay through the nose to drive like an idiot, most people would cut out the stock car racing tactics.
posted by pracowity at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Which tactics, specifically, do you think a black box could even reliably report, let alone stop people from doing by way of deterrent? Driving over the speed limit is not a tactic, so that's out, and not particularly relevant anyway. Quick acceleration and hard braking are not bad things in and of themselves, so how will the black box accurately report the circumstances of the telemetry data such that it will be discernable whether the driving is actually bad? The really actually dangerous stuff like cutting people off, driving fast in the slow lane, not monitoring mirrors or having good situational awareness, merging without looking, putting on makeup or reading or whatever while driving, etc are not really the sort of thing that a black box can track, are they?

You talk about "NASCAR tactics," but what does that mean and how would a black box keep people from doing it?
posted by The World Famous at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2011


On preview, I note that you actually said "stock car racing tactics." So, what are those tactics and how do you imagine a black box system deterring or monitoring them?
posted by The World Famous at 9:23 AM on December 3, 2011


1959 vs. 2009 crash test
posted by Tom-B at 10:03 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The technology is not exactly new. Many U.S. car manufacturers, including General Motors, have been installing Event Data Recorders (EDRs), designed to record information preceding a collision, for several years. But these “black boxes” don’t necessarily record the exact information that Progressive does in its TripSensor devices.

Snyder said that advanced EDRs can potentially record anything that involves an electric pulse in the vehicle, including airbag inflation, turn signals, windshield wipers and headlights. The data collected by EDRs was used originally in product liability cases to determine if airbags functioned correctly. But Snyder said that the data from Progressive, including speed and the information on braking and accelerating, has even more applications.

“We think that there is a huge value in collecting and using this data for safety research, and secondly, for liability claims settlement,” he said. “We’ll go beyond the inaccurate eyewitness testimony and interested parties and [find out] really what happened in collisions. They’ll collect information that you can use for real world evidence and [discover] what people and vehicles actually do in crashes as opposed to computer simulation or crash tests.”
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


>> Driving over the speed limit is not a tactic, so that's out,

What? Why? The proposal started with:

> tracks how you drive (speed, acceleration, etc.)

and went on to mention stock car racing tactics. If you take the commenter at his or her intention instead of trying to poke technical holes, this looks like a sound proposal.

Do you mean driving the limit isn't possible? I drive the limit (and sometimes under) in an area where people claim you "can't" do it. I had to re-learn how to drive this way and how to leave a few car lengths in front of me, but I had to learn how to drive like an aggressive asshole too, that was just more natural.

Strong longitudinal acceleration or braking isn't necessary if you keep situational awareness and leave a damned time cushion. There will be occasions where you're cut off, but the math can be tuned only raise rates if it's a regular occurrence. While I tend to accelerate strongly on freeway entrance ramps, most of them are long enough that even a Geo Metro can hit 65 MPH by the end of them.

Same with lateral jerk. You'll experience lateral acceleration in a tight curve, but the onset of that δv/δt should be gradual if you're paying attention. Too many jerks and your "extra safe driver" discount is flagged for review.

Not only does driving at the limit suggest you're either driving aggressively or not paying attention, it make it hard for other drivers to know what the hell you're doing. Driving like cows down a slaughterhouse chute might be boring, but it's supposed to be transportation, not entertainment.

--

Anyone know who teaches "boring" driving? There was a statement a few years back about the relative safety of graduates of "highway survival" courses vs. a program for commercial drivers, I think in the U.K., that taught situational awareness techniques with vehicle control secondary.
posted by morganw at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which tactics, specifically, do you think a black box could even reliably report

Let's say a black box measured your speed, acceleration, deceleration, how hard and often you swing from lane to lane, and how hard you take corners. People who drive faster than others, accelerate and decelerate harder than others, take corners harder than others, and make more (and more abrupt) lane changes could be charged more than others. Compared to other factors they use to determine how much you pay (age, sex, address, etc.), this one seems pretty fair. If you don't drive like a maniac, you might pay a very low rate even if you're an 18-year-old boy. If you do drive like maniac, you might pay much more than the 18-year-old boy even if you're a supposedly staid middle-aged soccer mom.
posted by pracowity at 10:44 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


...blood donors love life, but butter eaters make better lovers.

?
posted by availablelight at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


morganw, I really do appreciate your comment, notwithstanding your general tone.

But I don't think you actually read my comment or paid attention to anything that I said, and you didn't even attempt to respond to the questions I posed. If you're just going to ignore what I wrote and make crap up, I don't know what the point is.

Do you mean driving the limit isn't possible?

No. I mean that driving over the speed limit is not a stock car racing tactic. Indeed, it is not a tactic at all. Driving at a given speed, independent of what may be the posted speed limit, at a specific time or circumstance depending on external factors that the black box cannot possibly reflect, is a tactic.

pracowity:

Let's say a black box measured your speed, acceleration, deceleration, how hard and often you swing from lane to lane, and how hard you take corners. People who drive faster than others, accelerate and decelerate harder than others, take corners harder than others, and make more (and more abrupt) lane changes could be charged more than others.

If I had asked how an insurance company could structure a fee system based on black box data, that would have been a very good response to that question. But that's not what I asked.

If you don't drive like a maniac, you might pay a very low rate even if you're an 18-year-old boy.

The black box cannot tell whether you drive like a maniac. It cannot tell that you don't look before you change lanes. It cannot tell that you tailgate. It cannot tell that you drive like a jerk in 30-mile-per-hour traffic on the 405 during rush hour. It cannot tell that you drive slow in the fast lane or fast in the slow lane. See my comment above.

If you do drive like maniac, you might pay much more than the 18-year-old boy even if you're a supposedly staid middle-aged soccer mom.

You might, if, in addition to driving like a maniac, you also do innocuous things like having a car with decent acceleration or good tires or living someplace with speed traps.
posted by The World Famous at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2011


Well, besides all the obvious BS concerning black box data (how calibrated will it be, and by whom, what is the fudge factor, high/low on "speeding" and therefor getting your rates jacked on a product you are required by law to buy, who will maintain the data recorders to make sure they are operating within in legal spec, etc.) what I don't get is the assumption that if you're driving over the speed limit, you are obviously being unsafe.

BB recorders on road cars assume that the posted speed limit is as fast as you should go, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you go over that speed, you should be penalized for it because obviously what you are doing is dangerous.

I've been on stretches of road in the morning where I could see for hundreds of yards, no roads or driveways feeding onto my path for half a mile, easy, no one else but me on the road, and going quicker than the posted limit was was easy as walking into my kitchen.

And ten hours later, I've been on that same stretch of road and knew that I wold be lucky to see the posted limit without killing myself.

I think that data recorders will be a great way for insurance companies to make money, with the added side benefit of tracking data that could be sold/provided under warrant to either businesses or government entities.
posted by Relay at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2011


Money would work. A black box in the car tracks how you drive (speed, acceleration, etc.), then rats on you to your insurance company, which adjusts your insurance rate appropriately. If you had to pay almost nothing to be a safe driver and pay through the nose to drive like an idiot, most people would cut out the stock car racing tactics.

This is actually "a thing" in the UK - I believe it is specifically aimed at young drivers, who otherwise have to pay incredibly high insurance premiums since they are far more likely to have accidents. If the black box doesn't record them as driving too fast (or after dark I think?) then their premiums are reduced.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:46 PM on December 3, 2011


If the black box doesn't record them as driving too fast (or after dark I think?) then their premiums are reduced.

How does the black box know whether or not their speed is too fast? Faster than the speed limit is one thing. Too fast is another. Below the speed limit is often too fast. So how does the black box know?
posted by The World Famous at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2011


Cool! Taking a look at this video, at 5 seconds in and then also at 10 seconds in, I can see what happened to my head when I hit the windshield; check out the neato spray of glass heading out from the windshield, look at the neck twisting around. Those are some hellacious forces at work.

Wear your seat belts, sports fans.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:43 PM on December 3, 2011


Anyone know who teaches "boring" driving?

I remember hearing about the so-called Space Cushion Driving System when I was um, "invited" to take a little driving course by the state to help deal with a ticket a number of years ago. Sounds like it's mostly aimed at commercial drivers but supposedly helps reduce accidents.
posted by Potsy at 4:04 PM on December 3, 2011


Potsy: "when I was um, "invited" to take a little driving course by the state to help deal with a ticket"

Here in Texas you get to have one "moving" violation per year that you can dismiss from your record by taking defensive driving. This also allows for you to have no raise in ins rates because of the ticket, in fact, if/when you take these courses you can get a small discount on your auto insurance, three years I think.

I've taken them a number of times. The lessons don't stick forever, for sure, but they do hold some, for a while. One thing that's always stayed with me is a guy in Houston, who did a bit of simple arithmetic, how fast you'd get from point A to point B driving at 55mph vs driving 85mph; you'd save less than two minutes. Two minutes! And I'd driven that route many times at 85mph, to "save time." Damn. The forces involved, 55 v 85, a tremendous increase, much more than just a straight X percentage worse, corresponding directly with the speed, as I'd have thought.

Doesn't work that way. As the speed builds, things change drastically, for the worse if you happen to make a mistake. Or if someone else makes a mistake. Or if a chair falls off a truck in front of you; I was in Dallas once, on the freeway, rush hour traffic but moving at least 55, a damn car door came sliding off of a delivery truck directly in front of me. THAT was interesting. Thank god it didn't start flipping around, it was skidding flat. I ran right over it.

Things can happen, faster than we can imagine—who'd ever have thought a damn car door to be in the road? Not I. Not you, either..
posted by dancestoblue at 5:00 PM on December 3, 2011


Here are the latest road safety campaigns by the Victorian government's TAC (Transport Accident Commission) TAC campaigns are quite hard hitting.
posted by the noob at 5:04 PM on December 3, 2011


My company is big on defensive driving, and after being with them for years, it's become habit. Keeping a buffer space, making sure they see you and being situationally aware are all basic tenets and they work. I used to hare around in a car when I was in my 20's but these days, I'm too aware that I have everyone else on the road to think of and they might not be paying attention either. Be safe everyone.
posted by arcticseal at 5:10 PM on December 3, 2011


How does the black box know whether or not their speed is too fast? Faster than the speed limit is one thing. Too fast is another. Below the speed limit is often too fast. So how does the black box know?

This one will apparently track:
Number of journeys made
Distances travelled
Types of roads used
Speed
Time of travel
Levels of acceleration and braking
Any accidents which may occur

Although it can't say you were driving too fast for the conditions, it can see if you are doing a lot of hard acceleration and braking which would indicate a faster driver.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:16 PM on December 3, 2011


Although it can't say you were driving too fast for the conditions, it can see if you are doing a lot of hard acceleration and braking which would indicate a faster driver.

Hard acceleration and braking indicate higher top speeds? I'm going to need you to show your work before I'll buy that assertion.
posted by The World Famous at 5:50 PM on December 3, 2011


The forces involved, 55 v 85, a tremendous increase, much more than just a straight X percentage worse, corresponding directly with the speed, as I'd have thought.

Yes. Kinetic energy goes as the square of velocity.

Maybe a basic physics lesson should be required for all prospective drivers.
posted by spitefulcrow at 5:55 PM on December 3, 2011


It's competitive driving season in Austin. I almost had two wrecks in the 20 mph zone in front of my kid's school yesterday morning, trying to drop him off. There were other people driving other cars who were determined to drop their kids off first! Okay, you win. Whatever it is you won. Have fun with it.

Be gentle with people like this. They are unfortunate victims of imperfect technologies and imperfect societies, and these things have never been more imperfect than they are now.

Work in small ways to rebuild a proper sense of community with your neighbours and friends. It's all any of us can do at this point.

Well, and try to drive with children as little as possible. The more children live their early lives through a windshield, the more they think everything beyond is something to witness at 55mph instead of engage in fully. We should change this.

Have very safe trips this Christmas, everyone.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:01 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I don't think you actually read my comment or paid attention to anything that I said

The race driving discussion confused me but I think I get your drift now.

> It cannot tell that you don't look before you change lanes.

> Driving at a given speed, independent of what may be the posted speed limit, at a specific time or circumstance depending on external factors that the black box cannot possibly reflect, is a tactic.


OK. I agree with both of these. Yes, even driving well below the speed limit might be dangerous in heavy traffic or on icy roads and an accelerometer won't know those conditions.

> The black box cannot tell whether you drive like a maniac.

I agree. You're right that the system would be imperfect and would not detect many dangerous behaviors. I don't think that's enough to ignore the things it can detect.

> innocuous things like having a car with decent acceleration

Don't use it. Tread lightly. I feel that accelerating quickly is surprising to other road users and dangerous. I work around Apple and crossing De Anza Blvd. on foot with fresh millionaires testing out their Ferraris and Porsches is unnerving. But they can afford insurance without the extra good driver, black-box-required discount. Choice & the free(ish) market & all that

The black box would flag some behaviors I think are dangerous and you do not, but as long as it remains an option, do you object? Are you concerned that it's a slippery slope to mandatory monitoring?
posted by morganw at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2011


it can see if you are doing a lot of hard acceleration and braking which would indicate a faster driver.

That's the problem - it really doesn't. Hard acceleration and braking does not at all mean a fast driver, it just means an erratic one.

Also, the person doing the high speed isn't necessarily the one that causes the accident. It's more likely to be the one daydreaming on their phone that doesn't notice the car approaching them and changes lane right in front of them. How will the black box determine that cause? It can't - the same system of blaming the guy with the highest speed will prevail.

The only true method to accurately ascertain crash cause is for every car to have video and data and even then you'd need outside cameras for a decent proportion of accidents to be sure you are placing blame correctly.

A little bit of data is just as vague as none of it.
posted by Brockles at 9:06 PM on December 3, 2011


the person doing the high speed isn't necessarily the one that causes the accident

Exactly.

I'm a much more nervous passenger riding with a driver who is fearful and overly-cautious then I am with one who is driving quickly but shows good situational awareness and car control.

Drivers whose first reaction is to slam on the brakes regardless of the situation at hand or swerve due to phantasmal "dangers" are a danger to themselves and others, but if you ask them, they drive that way "to be safer".

the one daydreaming on their phone

Don't get me started ...

You're not driving a restaurant, you're not driving a beauty salon, you're not driving a phone booth, you're driving a car.

Do that: Drive.
posted by Relay at 9:42 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drivers whose first reaction is to slam on the brakes regardless of the situation at hand or swerve due to phantasmal "dangers" are a danger to themselves and others, but if you ask them, they drive that way "to be safer".

That's the sort of driver you could easily identify with a black box. Frequent rapid deceleration, frequent swerving. You would also identify the would-be race drivers zooming up to lights, racing away from lights, always switching lanes to get ahead of just one more car. Either way, they're a danger.
posted by pracowity at 3:17 AM on December 4, 2011


But how do you identify the people that aren't paying attention? They're the biggest danger. The ones that don't watch their mirrors, that sit in the fast lane or sit too close or in people's blind spots.

A system needs to identify ALL the problem drivers equally if any sort of fairness is to be considered. Just identifying the ones that drive fast is pointless - they aren't the cause of ALL accidents (or really even the vast majority), so you can't use a system that will unfairly target those drivers.
posted by Brockles at 8:32 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Insurers don't care about what's "fair", they care about statistics. Install black boxes in enough cars and collect data for a couple of years and math will tell you which driving habits correlate with increased insurance claims. Whether you'll be able to boil that data down into simple rules that drivers could follow is another question entirely.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2011


A system needs to identify ALL the problem drivers equally if any sort of fairness is to be considered.

All people who drive like that are problem drivers. Who are these fantastically safe drivers who nonetheless drive well over the limit, weave in and out of lanes, take corners hard, don't use their signals, and rapidly accelerate and decelerate more than others? Other than emergency services, no one should be driving like that on public roads, even if they are paying attention and have superhuman reflexes and the world's more reliable and best-handling cars, because they aren't driving alone on a race track. They share the road with people who don't have those advantages and who will pull (or step) right in front of them from out of nowhere at the last second.
posted by pracowity at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who are these fantastically safe drivers who nonetheless drive well over the limit, weave in and out of lanes, take corners hard, don't use their signals*, and rapidly accelerate and decelerate more than others?

Me and most of my friends, and I would bet that Brockles is too, that's who.

I bet you haven't spent much time around car clubs, have you?

The people I have been around car clubs with, and I mean literally my whole life, mostly drive over the limit, corner hard, brake late and get on it hard. And only very, very rarely have I seen any of those people cause accidents; I mean a handful of times and minor property damage over the course of my entire life.

These are everyday people who drive to and from work and on the weekends screw around with stuff like Buicks and Hemi Darts and Ferraris and TR-4s and Miatas and WRXs and even nonsensical French cars.

Honestly, driving like that is not that hard to do. All you have to do is drive within your own capabilities and the capabilities of the car.

*I always, use my turn signals. Always. And so do my friends.
posted by Relay at 12:24 PM on December 4, 2011


This list of horrors reminds me of a cop story. A driver had punched his head through a windshield, and was barely conscious that he was wearing it around his collar.

The officer said,"don t move." Unfortunately, the driver turned his head to respond, and cut his carotid.

The driver bled out before the ems came
posted by eustatic at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2011


You would also identify the would-be race drivers zooming up to lights, racing away from lights, always switching lanes to get ahead of just one more car. Either way, they're a danger.

I'm interested to know why you say that those are dangerous in and of themselves.

Who are these fantastically safe drivers who nonetheless drive well over the limit, weave in and out of lanes, take corners hard, don't use their signals*, and rapidly accelerate and decelerate more than others?

I always use my turn signals. But you can add me to the list that includes Brockles and Relay. Though I guess it sort of depends on what you mean by "weave in and out of lanes," since I sort of wonder if you actually mean changing lanes regularly or if you're talking about a specific sort of jerk who weaves dangerously. If you're talking about the latter and not the former, how do you propose that the black box will differentiate between the two if it doesn't know exactly where and how fast all the other cars on the road are?
posted by The World Famous at 4:05 PM on December 4, 2011


You would also identify the would-be race drivers zooming up to lights, racing away from lights, always switching lanes to get ahead of just one more car. Either way, they're a danger.

I'm interested to know why you say that those are dangerous in and of themselves.


Given the topic of this post, I'm more interested to know why you think you should be allowed to drive like a stock-car racer (or an 'invulnerable' 16-year old) on public streets.

Everyone thinks they're a fantastic driver until the accident happens.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given the topic of this post, I'm more interested to know why you think you should be allowed to drive like a stock-car racer (or an 'invulnerable' 16-year old) on public streets.

Stock car racers don't accelerate quickly from anywhere and never do any hard braking to a stop at all, ever. They drive slowly to the end of pit row and then merge with traffic. And they never, ever, weave in and out of traffic. Why are you changing the subject?

Everyone thinks they're a fantastic driver until the accident happens.

And apparently you go even further, thinking that people other than you are bad drivers, in spite of the fact that you cannot even explain why you think specific driving techniques are dangerous per se.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on December 4, 2011


The subject of the posts is car accidents, not how awesome a driver you are.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:00 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The subject of the posts is car accidents, not how awesome a driver you are.

Yes, but the better driver you are, the less you get into accidents.
posted by Relay at 6:08 PM on December 4, 2011


You know what, I apologize for getting into it and making it personal. Peace.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:16 PM on December 4, 2011


All people who drive like that are problem drivers.

Not necessarily. The system has to (as I mentioned before) monitor ALL drivers to ascertain whether the movements made are a indication of an erratic driver, or that of someone reacting to an erratic driver.

If only the reacting driver is in an accident, how will the system know that his inputs were to avoid the gut in front of him who got away scott free? How will it know that the erratic inputs were reaction? His steering and accel traces will match that of an erratic driver, but it won't necessarily make him guilty of being erratic. Hw do you track the external influences?

It can't unless all traffic is logged in relation to the others. That is the flaw in this system as it is surely unacceptable from many perspectives to track every driver so closely.
posted by Brockles at 8:52 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: black boxes (telematics): State Farm's Driver Feedback iPhone app gives you (but not them) a score for "acceleration, braking, and cornering [and] an overall score"
posted by morganw at 12:05 AM on December 7, 2011


Isn't the amount of that behavior going to also depend on the roads in question. We have a few incidences of the "jersey slalom" around where I live (for example: the rightmost lane becomes a turn only lane, then the leftmost lane becomes a turn only lane... ) Anyone whose route requires going straight will read as constantly changing lanes.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:11 PM on December 10, 2011


« Older Hot on the heels of winning both the Golden Globe ...  |  Need a hug? Take a visit to th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments