Big Brother is watching. Red light cameras are gaining credence in the traffic safety world. A study just released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that traffic fatalities dropped by 26% over a five year period in DC. The average decline in other cities with cameras was 13%. The article in the Washington Post didn’t note that fatalities were down overall but the point was that camera enforcement was making a positive impact.
DC issued over 85,000 citations and netted about $7.2 million in a one year period while redeploying about 100 officers to crime fighting rather than traffic detail. Was it just about the money? Rear end collisions went up slightly as suddenly law-abiding drivers decided that running the well-marked enforcement areas perhaps wasn’t such a good idea. The study noted that these caused fewer serious injuries and deaths than T-bone crashes or flattened pedestrians/cyclists.
So what does this have to do with aviation? Many new glass cockpit aircraft, which are the vast majority of deliveries these days, are equipped with flight data monitoring (FDM). Speed, altitude, heading, power setting and configuration can often be examined after an accident. We can often see that the pilot was high on an approach but made up for it by being fast. No big surprise when an aircraft slides off the end.
The FDM often helps pinpoint the causes of an accident. Usually it will be something the pilot did or did not do and the FDM provides a unbiased view of the facts. That makes it at least a little harder for creative interpretations by plaintiff attorneys to shift blame to a manufacturer. It can also make it much easier when the hardware actually does fail. Like the unblinking eye of the camera, the FDM just quietly gathers data which is a good starting point for discussions of who’s responsible and how to fix something.
It seems like a good direction for getting to the root cause of accidents. You may have some other views.