It seems right now, with the lengths governments and car companies are taking to reduce traffic fatalities, the objective in many developed countries really is to get to zero. I have mixed feelings on this. It’s surely a noble goal to do everything in our power to prevent every traffic death possible, but it just seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to zero when we have vehicles traveling so close to each other with closing speeds of 100+ mph. Even once the computers take over almost all driving, I don’t see the number going to zero. But in that pursuit, governments are requiring more and more safety equipment as standard on vehicles. It started with seatbelts, then airbags, then ABS (all great!) and now we’re into rear-view cameras and soon, auto-braking systems. This is all great tech that does & will save lives, but what it’s done is make even the most affordable new car thousands of dollars more expensive. At some point, cars will have gotten so safe that the additional safety features will become even more expensive and, in turn, burdensome on the poor if they become mandated as standard by governments. Each life is precious and we should try to save it, but at some point we have to look at the diminishing returns, and decide if it’s worth the collateral effects.
Thought experiment on the idea of diminishing returns: is the potential of saving one (1) life worth mandating that every consumer pay an extra $1000 for some safety feature on their new car?
In the U.S., that’d be over $17 billion spent in one year to save one life. That money could surely be put to better use to save or better more lives.