May 24, 2018

The Update Desk: Random Thoughts

Earlier this week, I posted some Random Thoughts on how we convolute logic when it comes to who (or what) gets blamed when things go wrong. The solution I proposed was extreme, to say the least, but it seemed to make sense in context..

The driver of the random thoughts was the most recent school shooting, the one at Santa Fe High School in Texas, and the reactions from both sides on a 'solution' to the problem. I realized, as I wandered through my most recent Sunday School post, that generally when we have a choice between blaming people or blaming inanimate objects, our logic is based on how much we like or dislike the inanimate object.

You know, guns don't kill people, people do. Plastic bags don't pollute, people do. In those examples, we like the inanimate object, its usefulness, its convenience, its  je ne sais quoi  - and so we'll blame the people.

In other examples in the post, such as solar panels or 'smart' assistants  and 'smart' appliances, we are more apt to blame the objects than we are to blame the people who use them. I could have included Facebook as another inanimate object we're more than happy to blame, rather than blaming the people who don't understand how (or refuse) to take control of their own privacy settings. Where we are to blame, it seems, we blame the object.

Yesterday, another example reared its ugly head, one that confirms the logic: seat belts on school buses.

As you probably heard, there was a horrible, tragic accident in New Jersey last week involving a school bus and a dump truck; a ten-year-old child and a 51-year-old teacher were killed, and it's simply heartbreaking, as it is anytime anyone loses a child or any family member under such totally random circumstances.

This is not the first tragic school bus accident, and it will likely not be the last - we know that. As the investigation into the recent crash continues, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released some recommendations stemming from their investigation of two previous accidents.
The investigative panel issued the recommendations at a Washington hearing during which staff presented the findings of their probes of two school bus crashes that occurred in 2016, killing 12 and injuring 37. One was in Baltimore and the other in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The NTSB's recommendations certainly won't prevent accidents like the one that happened last week. And we're learning more about the bus driver, as noted below:
The bus driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Paterson, has had his license suspended 14 times since he began driving in 1975, said Mairin Bellack, a (NJ Motor Vehicle) Commission spokeswoman. Muldrow has eight speeding tickets on his record, as well as one careless driving ticket and a summons for unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, from 2003 Bellack said. 
Six license suspensions were due to unpaid parking tickets, including Muldrow's most recent which lasted from December 20, 2017 to January 3, 2018. The state also once suspended his license for administrative reasons, Bellack said.
So, did the NTSB recommend that people who have sketchy driving records over a forty year period not be allowed to drive school buses? That 77-year-olds shouldn't be driving school buses? Nope - instead of addressing their recommendations to the person, they addressed the inanimate object.
  • all new school buses in the US should be equipped with lap and shoulder belts
  • automatic emergency braking systems should be mandated, to help prevent or mitigate frontal collisions if the driver doesn't apply the brakes.
  • NY, FL, LA, and NY should upgrade their requirements to lap and shoulder belts from the current lap belt requirement.
Now, these are just recommendations, meaning that absent legislation at the local, state or federal level, school districts are going to have to decide whether to follow the recommendations when they put new bus proposals up for discussion. And, district voters or school boards will have to decide whether they're willing to pay the extra $10,000 per bus cost, or if they're willing to play the odds.

After all, from 2007 - 2016, only 58 school-age occupants of buses and other 'school transportation vehicles' were killed - so the odds are pretty good that it's not going to happen to anyone from their school, right?

Yeah. Just like another school shooting isn't going to happen.

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