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[AUS] The Yangon Solution

Discussion in 'Politics, Laws, Government & Insurance' started by Chollima, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. [Edit: Removed inactive links.]

    Unlike other politically isolated nations, there is a surprising about of freedom with regard to conversing with the locals of Myanmar (Burma), many of whom speak good English and are happy to talk about the problems facing the country. This makes Myanmar a fascinating place to visit. The traffic in Myanmar's former capital city of Yangon (Rangoon) has an interesting feature. There are no two-wheeled vehicles of any kind other than police vehicles, which is unique for a populous South-East Asian city.

    Suppose 500 soldiers go into battle and 5 are fatally wounded. That's 5 fatalities, with a fatality rate of 1 fatality per 100 soldiers. The total number of soldiers is a measure of exposure: 500 soldiers are exposed to risk. If the battle is smaller, with only 200 soldiers, but at the same level of risk, we might expect only 2 fatalities. So reducing exposure reduces fatalities. If the battle is less intense, but of the same size, then 500 soldiers would again go into battle but the risk (as measured by the fatality rate) would be smaller; perhaps 1 fatality per 250 soldiers, and the number of fatalities again reduces to 2.

    Road fatalities work in the same way. There are only two ways to reduce the number of fatalities: you reduce the risk or reduce the exposure to that risk, and most traffic policies affect both to some degree. Increased driver training seeks to reduce risk, but may also deter people from obtaining a licence which reduces exposure. Exposure is typically measured using either the total number of registered vehicles, the total distance traveled by all registered vehicles (which unfortunately is often inaccurate), or the total number of licence holders. A large increase in these will typically lead to an increase in road fatalities.

    Reducing the number of road fatalities to zero is easy: ban all motor vehicles. This reduces exposure to zero. Reducing exposure is easy to do, but while it may reduce fatalities, it inevitably impinges on the freedom of the individual. There is a trade-off, and so policies that reduce exposure are applied to circumstances where the risk is deemed to be high, such as with peer-passenger restrictions for young drivers and the setting of minimum driving ages. The policy in Yangon is an example of this approach. Even the safest motorcyclist acknowledges the increased risk that is present compared to driving a car. Yangon has reduced the exposure to zero for motorbikes which, relatively speaking, are a high-risk vehicle.

    MUARC (Monash University Accident Research Centre) is perhaps the highest profile research group for road safety in Victoria. They have a publicly available series of reports. Some of these focus on cycling. Other focus on motorcycling: on younger, older and high-risk riders; on crash information and countermeasures; on training, licensing and hazard perception.

    Of particular interest is this report which reviewed motorcycle licensing and suggested an 'optimal model' for its implementation. The primary recommendation was that car licences should be a pre-requisite for bike licences (not implemented). Other recommendations included restrictions for L/P plate riders (zero alcohol, no pillion, power-to-weight) and an increase in the teaching of cognitive skills such as road-craft and hazard perception (all implemented to some degree). The reasoning behind these recommendations was clearly stated. Quoting from two sections of the report:

    "Another general principle of the optimal model is that, given the high crash risks associated with motorcycling, the model should not encourage increased exposure (...). For this reason, the total costs of obtaining a motorcycle licence (...) should not be cheaper than for a car licence."

    "The research suggests that any safety benefits of motorcycle licensing and training probably result more from exposure reduction (a reduction in the total amount of riding) than from crash risk reduction."

    The aim of the proposed 'optimal model' is to contain exposure (i.e. to discourage the use of motorbikes) rather than to reduce risk. Surely then, it is the policy of Yangon that is the true optimum. But is it a bad one: should bikes be banned? Or perhaps we should ask the opposite question: should the use of bikes be encouraged, even if the increasing exposure leads to additional fatalities? What do you think?

    I think motorcycling should be made freely available to all those who desire it. The freedom of the individual to take his or her own risk is a right that should not be taken away by the state in the pursuit of lowering the road toll. In Melbourne, banning motorbikes would rightly lead to protests. In Yangon protests are met with force, and as demonstrated in 2007, dead protesters are soon forgotten. Yangon is not an example that should be followed.

  2. great post i will enjoy reading those links.

    i dont know of any studies that cover the theory of increase exposure to reduce the risk. makes sense in a way
  3. While the methods are different, it all sounds remarkably similar to the "Vision Zero" effort coming out of Sweden (or is it Norway), where basically it's all about reducing both risk and exposure, and the head of the body has stated that motorcycles do not fit into the concept of "Vision Zero".
  4. "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero".

    Make the most of it while you can!

    Vision Zero is a pipedream.
  5. Firstly, fix your links
    Secondly MONASH may be high profile but have zero credibility with their biased research and biased outcomes hellbent on garnering government funds through favourable outcomes rather than doing real unbiased research.
  6. Risk = probability x consequence.

    Training, driver competence, better simplified road design, more space, less traffic etc all directly manage probability, i.e., the likelihood of the incident occuring.

    Slower speeds, better car designs, air bags, better safety features all directly manage consequence of the incident should the incident occur.

    You have your terms mixed up.

    You can't reduce risk directly - it's just a measure. You have to reduce or influence one or both other parameters.

    I personally agree that having a car licence before a bike licence helps start you out as a safer rider, but the two quotes are short sighted cynical clap trap that only has some scarec of relevance because we live in a country with the luxury of space. Even Australia though suffers from congestion which if you put each rider back in a car would have the masses demanding more freeways.

    Lately I've been wondering about the zeal the popo pursue fatality stats. The dirty little secret that seems ignored is that driving/riding is inherently risky and fatalities/injuries arise as a consequence of that - even if every letter of the law were utterly complied with. Why do the authorities pursue the stats with such zeal? Why has society given them the right to pursue molly coddle enforcement?
  7. Absolutely, riding/driving is probably the most dangerous most of us do on a daily basis, which is exactly why Vision Zero is a farce.

    It does make you wonder why they pursue something which is impossible...
  8. You're right netter, differences in exposure may itself affect risk, so if increasing exposure reduces risk substantially, fatalities numbers may go down. For example with heavy traffic congestion; if the number of vehicles triples overnight, everyone gets stuck in traffic .

    I agree that you can break risk down into these components; as you said, some measures reduce likelihood of an incident occuring to a vehicle and others manage consequence in the event of an incident: all these seek to reduce risk.

    I think exposure is a different concept to either: the soldier not at the battle, the 15 year-old not at the wheel, or the passenger not in the car due to passenger restrictions. A complete removal of any possibility of an incident. (Though passenger restrictions also seek to reduce risk to the driver by preventing distraction, so maybe night-time curfews would be a better example.)