I walked into the Jenkintown Library last month and saw a puzzle in progress in front of the fireplace. It got me thinking about problem solving.
A puzzle. You sit down and work on it because it’s in front of you. You don’t blame the manufacturer for mixing up all of the pieces. You probably dumped all of the pieces on a table anyway.
I think there are times to ask, “Why does this problem exist?” And there are times when any cause you can think of will not reflect the complexity.
For example: Why does a pedestrian get killed on average every hour and 18 minutes in the US?
- Is it because of pedestrians with mobile devices?
- Is it because drivers are in a hurry?
- Is it because of lack of safe crossing spots?
- Is it because of drivers not paying attention?
- Is it because drivers aren’t held accountable enough to care?
- Is it because drivers don’t see pedestrians?
- Is it because of age?
- Is it because of nice weather?
- Is it the color of clothes people wear?
- Is it drunk pedestrians?
- Is it drunk drivers?
- Is it because of people who can no longer safely drive?
- I could go on…
There are statistics maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help answer these questions, and I thought it could better address the issue of speed.
A good puzzle to solve
As a parent living near a road with 30,000 cars a day passing by, the problem I wanted to solve was, “How can I keep my kids safe AND mobile”. I was solving a problem based on my kids, not for society.
We biked together, my mantra was, “Cars don’t see bikes.” And I really thought I was solving a problem of keeping my kids safe. Maybe, but maybe not. Our beliefs shouldn’t lead us into a false sense of security.
And as a society, sometimes we need to solve problems that people perceive as too complex :
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested that traffic crashes are too “complex” for police to hold reckless drivers accountable. “You’re going to have a lot of traffic,” Kelly said. “And you’re going to have accidents.”(from Streets Blog)
But you know what, Amy Cohen and her husband were parents just like my wife and me, and their 12 year old son Sam, who was really an amazing kid, was killed.
I want my kids to live in a place where they not only feel safe, but are safe. So the question is, how do we address problems that can be attributed to driving? Driving is a convenience, and often necessity, that most people won’t give up.
How we approach the problem will affect our results. If we blame the victim for getting killed because they walk along the side of a road and are wearing headphones, this won’t solve anything. If we have to build separate facilities for cars and bikes and pedestrians everywhere, the reality is population centers will be prioritized.
Can self driving cars be a part of the solution? Can artificial intelligence be used to slow traffic speeds to just below the speed limit? In fact, if automated cars were programmed to go 3 mph under the speed limit, it would cause most traffic to slow down.
To sum up – The picture on the puzzle box should point towards streets that are safe for people – Like goals promoted by Vision Zero . I wonder if self-driving vehicles are a piece of the puzzle. I think this would be a more universal solution than speed cameras (which may save lives in the short term).
I want to thank the people in this photo below for causing me to think about this issue a bit more. Peter Javsicas was a friend who I worked with for several years. We can’t leave this kind of advocacy just to family members because pedestrian deaths can affect us all.