Safety Last

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 6:30pm
John Kushma

“Have you ever experienced the dreaded sickening fear that you could have prevented the accident if only you had acted faster or prepared better?"  John Kushma 


When it comes to safety, risk management is the name of the game. 


So, I was both surprised and concerned when the State of Utah recently discontinued the mandatory annual safety inspection requirement for passenger vehicles.  I was even more surprised to find out that most states do not require an annual or even bi-annual safety inspection.  Only a small handful of states require what I consider to be an important part of the whole national safety commitment ...or at least what all the related government safety agencies and organizations pay big bucks to advertise as their sincere, heartfelt concern and commitment to our safety on America’s highways. 


Clean air has become the more fashionable bandwagon to board these days leaving safety in the dust.  So, mandatory vehicle emissions testing is now the predominant concern among our ecological lobbyist glitterati.  And who can argue against clean air?  It would be as gauche as admitting that you watch television or don’t like hamburgers.  Save the whales!  No, really, save them.  I’m all for that.  I love the whales ...and they love me. 


Wait!  What’s this?  I’ve just been informed that the State of Utah will no longer require it’s Cache County to enforce mandatory emissions testing next year.  Wow!  Next it will be legal to drive drunk!  Cache County is located in the northern part of the state and poor quality air has been an issue here for years.  I guess the air is okay now ...or something. 


“Something’s rotten in Denmark” (or Utah).  Why the change in safety commitment? 


Follow the money.  Always follow the money.  The money and the politics, they seem to go hand in hand.  There is talk, then there’s action, and seldom do the two meet. 


Politics.  Marketing.  Last year, some lightweight, albeit safety-minded, corporate marketing genius at the NSC (National Safety Council) advertised ‘national safety month’ and turned the skyline of Chicago green by having all the buildings display green lights.  Yeah, that’s gonna help as much as Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to bring awareness to prejudice and injustice.  Where’d that go?  It ruined his football career, made him appear dumb an foolish not sincere and heartfelt, it hurt the NFL and the game of football, he ended up a marketing stunt for Nike shoes ...Plus, Time magazine put him on a cover issue as some sort of a national hero.  Go figure, and beware, these people vote and breed.


These are nice thoughts but we are already aware, thank you.  Let’s have an awareness party, but ‘where’s the beef?‘ they have any working solutions to offer?  All I’m hearing and seeing is meaningless advertising/marketing psychobabble, and someone makes a few bucks. 


The irony of the whole thing is that the NSC’s logo is a green cross.  “Giving the green light for safety”.  Isn’t the commonly understood, universal symbol for safety the red light?  Stop!  All safety buttons on every piece of equipment and on safety signs on every street corner in the world is the most prolific, understood and recognized safety symbol and color in the universe directing you to the ultimate safety.  Red!  Stop!  But I digress ... 


Back to Utah.  Cache County.  So, here we are not required to safety inspect our cars, no more emission testing, but I can get a fine for not having my seat belt buckled up in the middle of town.  And I  have.  What sense does that make?  I depended on those safety inspections as a stopgap to safety during the course of the year.  I want to know that my brakes, my tires, my belts, lights, etc. need attention before they fail me on the road and leave me stranded or involved in a fatal accident.  Sure, I keep an eye on all these things myself as I consider it my own responsibility toward my safety and the safety of others, but have you seen who’s out there driving these days?  Can you trust everyone on the road to take that responsibility upon themselves?  Add smart phones, texting, calling, and you have a perfect storm for trouble. 


No lie ...I saw a guy driving one morning wearing what appeared to be pajamas, eating what looked to be a bowl of cereal with a spoon.  And remember, they vote and they breed, if that makes you any less uncomfortable. 


They say that drunk driving incidents and fatalities are on a downward trend.  They call it ‘impaired driving‘ same as texting, calling or internet surfing.  The DUI fines and consequences are stiff and can easily cost you $10,000 for starters if you’re stopped and cited.  Utah has recently lowered its legal BAC limit (Breath Alcohol Content) to 0.05% from 0.08%.  This follows much of the world’s standard.  But juxtaposed to the safety inspection laws eliminated and emissions testing being discontinued it just doesn’t make comparative sense regarding an overall safety policy. 


Who’s running the show?  Is there not a Department of Public Safety with an organization chart of responsibility?  It seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.  Following that logic, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became mandatory that you had to be drunk in order to drive, or be fined if you're not drunk ...but only if you were under 0.08%.  Then they’d lower it to 0.5% in the name of safety ...and have a big expensive ad campaign and a safety conference to kick it off ...just kidding, of course ... 


The State of Utah, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), NSC, the alcoholic beverage industry and the hospitality industry have, for the most part, all rejected a sponsored and widespread breathalyzer technology service for point of purchase use.  The technology is basic in concept and application.  An advanced video-screen kiosk is installed in bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. and it allows a patron to check his BAC.  It also allows for a free call to a cab company or car service.  The most significant feature is that the kiosk can be sponsored by any or all of the above organizations and liquor companies for their “drink responsibly” public service mandate, and they can display safety and commercial messages on he video screen.   


These companies would increase product sales based on a favorable public image as a company that is not just giving lip service to a responsible drinking message by merely promoting safety but actually doing something tangible by actually assuring safety.  Plus, the subliminal message regarding drunk driving would be supported by the mere presence of the kiosks in public drinking places.       


See, there’s an actionable, win win solution that will work and save lives.  Safety first, not last.  Risk management.


MADD’s response to the breathalyzer kiosks was that it was their opinion that the technology would only serve to promote drinking.  Go figure.  Goodness, they vote and they breed. 


So, why dis safety? (discontinue, disrespect, disconnect).  Follow the money ...what are the offsetting costs?  Does it cost more to administer these state by state safety programs of vehicle inspection and emissions testing than the money they bring in?  Salaries for the executives and administrators on that corporate org chart?  The cost of safety conventions and conferences?  Dues to the NSA for the national “green light” campaigns?  Buttons, banners, pens, caps, jackets?  Breakfasts, lunches and dinners expenses? 


‘To hell with safety, I’m going to that safety conference and bring back some good swag for the kids’. 


I was heartened and relieved when the auto shops I use told me they agreed that it was crazy for the state to eliminate the mandatory inspections.  They also felt that the inspections were mush more important to safety than emissions testing.  Although they would lose some money, it turns out not much comparatively, they would give a free inspection when I came in for a scheduled servicing. 


Seems like higher costs and less service is all we are getting from the government and institutions on which we depend most.  Seems like it’s every man for himself these days ...or like in 1776 maybe we need to band together with a few good men and women and take care of business ourselves. 


Jeez, I can’t believe I just said that.            



John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.