Each and every day, millions of people place their faith in the hands of transportation other than that of the traditional car. Segway company owner James Heselden died Sunday after driving his Segway personal transportation device off a cliff. Hikers reported seeing the fall of over 30 ft., but the cause of the accident has yet to be released. There is little that the public can do now other than speculate what caused this horrific incident.
Although this is one horrific instance in which the technology that was created to help us actually caused an unexpected death, it is not the first. The third-worst accident in recent history involving alternative transportation, in my opinion happened, in Salina, NY, earlier this month when a megabus, or double-decker bus, slammed into a railway bridge that was too low. Four died in this accident, and others were taken to the hospital. This accident wasn’t caused by the technology that is involved with this bus, but rather by the driver, who somehow strayed from the prescribed route that had already been approved.
Another tragedy involving alternative transportation occurred in 1987 when an Amtrak train traveling at a surplus of 100 miles per hour collided with a locomotive in Baltimore County, Maryland. Fourteen passengers and two employees were killed. It was later discovered that the accident was caused by the driver’s negligence and subsequent failure to slow the train down when reports of a fouled line were reported.
The worst accident that involved alternative transportation in recent history occurred in Arizona earlier this year in March, when a sanitation truck ran over and killed several motorcycle riders. The dump truck plowed into a group of eight motorcycles, killing four and injuring five others, including the driver of an SUV in front of the motorcycles. It was not the fault of the motorcyclists, but rather the fault of the dump truck that caused the accident.
These accidents involved mainly people-based error. The first two were directly related to the error of those in charge of the machines while the third related directly to the way that others treat these forms of alternative transportation. These accidents will, in many ways, affect the market for alternative transportation, as will the death of Heselden. There is little way that we can ensure car drivers will heed the rules of the road, but these accidents prove that it is just as dangerous to use alternative transportation as it is to drive your own car. All in all, I think that it is the responsibility of the people to choose the method of transportation that is best for their individual situation, and all that accidents provide is insight into what could happen.