This Is An Ethics Story. More Than That, It’s Hard To Say…

Read this story, please.

Then consider the 10 questions below.

A summary of the main points…

  • Luke Gibbs’ wife, Rachel, mother of two,  was rendered permanently vegetative after a go-kart accident at a Michigan amusement park, the Family Fun Center, near Grand Rapids.  A long scarf she was wearing got caught in one of the go-kart’s axles, snapping her windpipe.

  • She is now in a long-term care center southwest of London. Her husband is certain that this would never have occurred in England, because the country has more regulations. “There’s no agency in the United States that can say to my children, who are American citizens, this is the way in which we worked to protect your mother and keep her safe,” he said. “I’m confident that accident would not have happened here, part because I think we have more stringent regulation,” he added.

  • Parks are exempted from federal regulation, leaving supervision to the vagaries of the states, and six have no oversight: Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah. In the early 1980s, park operators successfully lobbied to shield amusement parks from federal oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Starting in 1999,  Senator Edward J. Markey sought to mandate federal oversight, but Disney successfully lobbied against it, along with its competitors.

They argued that the federal regulation was not necessary.  Industry studies say there is only a one in 17 million chance of injury at fixed-site parks. The safety commission estimates there were 29,400 amusement ride injuries requiring emergency treatment last year at all types of parks, including  inflatable attractions and even coin-operated rides at shopping malls.

Mobile parks with rides that can be moved, like carnivals and state fairs, are not exempted from federal regulation.

  • When Rachel Gibbs wife was injured, the park appeared unprepared for an emergency. The ride’s operators panicked, and momentarily couldn’t recall the park’s address so emergency vehicles could be called, and could not provide the injured woman with a defibrillator

A 2007 internal memorandum from the park admonished employees to “never admit fault for accidents,” adding, “our common phrase is ‘AJ’s is an at your own risk Fun Park.’”

  • “After a Freedom of Information request, the state turned over four pages of records related to the accident: notes scrawled by an AJ’s employee, state inspection notices and a brief finding that the park complied with state law and had “warnings about securing loose clothing.” Neither the state nor the park would provide further details; AJ’s promotional material pictured a woman driving a kart with flowing hair and a long necklace.

In the aftermath, facing large American medical bills, Mr. Gibbs, who works as a spokesman for the agrochemical company Syngenta, settled with a holding company connected to the park, ultimately owned by local entrepreneurs Gregory and Lori Van Boxel. There was never a judgment or finding of negligence. He is considering further legal action against the owners.”

Questions:

1. The underlying tone and thrust of the article is that the U.S. does not regulate the parks sufficiently. This is achieved by concentrating on the single tragedy. Is this fair reporting, or is it inherently manipulative?

2. Should the Times be in the business of promoting regulations?

3. I was shocked that there were 29,400 amusement ride injuries in a year. We have a lot of amusement parks and rides. Why didn’t the Times say how many fatalities and serious injuries there were? I suspect that it is because the number does not support the writer’s pro-regulation agenda.

4. Disney, which made headlines when a child was killed on a ride recently because accidents in the Magic Kingdom are so rare, has proven that it regulates itself extremely well. Is Disney wrong to oppose government regulations and dictatorial government bureaucrats, neither of which have anywhere near the record of care and competence that Disney has? 

5. When is it ethical to use one incident, one tragedy, to justify sweeping new regulations, and expenses, on an entire industry?

6. If the ride really did have warnings about securing loose clothing, doesn’t that shift at least some of the responsibility to the victim?

7. Or is the assumption that if someone suffers enough, they can never be blamed?

8. Is it the government’s proper function to eliminate all risk and personal responsibility? Is it the news media’s proper function to advocate that position?

9. That internal memorandum is left hanging to sound sinister. In fact, every organization has a similar policy, and should. Employees are not the arbiter of fault in negligence scenarios, and their spontaneous expressions of regret can cost millions of dollars. Is it fair to include such a sentence without clarifying this?

10. A husband whose wife has been tragically disabled is inherently biased regarding amusement parks. Is his opinion that his wife would have been saved by more vigorous regulations useful? Misleading? Prejudicial?

A last note: My mother had a life-long horror of long scarves after learning about the death of dancer Isadora Duncan. The international celebrity was killed, as any viewer of the film “Isadora,” starring Vanessa Redgrave, knows, as a passenger in a brand-new convertible sports car that she was learning to drive. “Duncan leaned back in her seat to enjoy the sea breeze, and her enormous red scarf (“which she had worn since she took up communism,” one newspaper reported)  blew into the well of the rear wheel on the passenger side. It wound around the axle, tightening around her neck and dragging her from the car onto the cobblestone street. She died instantly.”  The date was September 14, 1927. “Affectations,” said Gertrude Stein when she heard the news of Duncan’s death, “can be dangerous.”

So can cultural illiteracy. More and better education might have saved Rachel Gibbs’ life more surely than additional regulations.

27 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

27 responses to “This Is An Ethics Story. More Than That, It’s Hard To Say…

  1. Glenn Logan

    1 Inherently manipulative. Whenever only one side is allowed to present facts, it cannot be fair. Given the tenor of the piece, it’s clear the Times intends to manipulate opinion in favor of regulation.

    2 Of course not, but this is de riguer for the Times.
    3 You can be forgiven for thinking this, even though it is an unproven assumption.

    4 You would think the Times thinks so, but the mention of Disney is brief, and the Times scrupulously avoids denouncing them with:

    “In our experience, robust state regulations are the most effective and proactive way to ensure ride safety,” said Greg Hale, chief safety officer for Disney Parks, in a statement, adding, “We have long been a key industry leader in developing and advocating for rigorous safety standards.”

    When referring to AJ’s the company involved in the woman’s injury, it is this:

    In Ms. Gibbs’s case, court and state records indicate an ill-prepared park and a perfunctory review after the accident. Management at the park, AJ’s Family Fun Center, near Grand Rapids, never expressed remorse until being contacted by The New York Times three years later.

    Damning. Compare and contrast.

    5 Yes if you’re the Times, because if even one [fill in here]’s life is saved …

    6 Don’t you dare engage in victim-blaming, you evil, evil man. Maybe the were legally blind and the warning was in too-small print, or not in an obvious enough place, or “loose clothing” is just too technical, damn it!

    7 I can’t even wrap my head around that. Either they didn’t read the sign or read the sign and a) didn’t comprehend it, or b) didn’t obey it. How much suffering does it take to overcome fundamental incompetence in the simplest of things? I guess that depends on whether or not you are the Times.

    The magnitude of suffering is purely a mechanism to engender sympathy for the victims, and for the regulations the Times thinks are needed. The two are inextricably intertwined — if there is no great suffering, regulations seem … less urgent.

    8 I say no, but apparently, the Times and many on the Left think yes. They think that the government should regulate every aspect of our lives, because we are incompetent to regulate our own behavior. In the case of the victim, perhaps they have a point, but what about the rest of us who are competent human beings and citizens?

    9 I wonder if Disney has any sinister memoranda regarding injuries? The Times, despite mentioning them as a major opponent of regulations, did not tell us. I wonder if that’s because of their political leanings? Why do I suspect AJ’s leanings are in a different direction? How … cynical of me.

    10 No, it isn’t. It only adds more of a sympathy factor for the regulations. “If only one [fill in here]’s life is saved…” is the desired takeaway from this construction. And after all, we can trust the federal government, unlike the states.

    So can cultural illiteracy. More and better education might have saved Rachel Gibbs’ life more surely than additional regulations.

    Yes, well, either that or actual literacy. There was a sign there, was there not?

  2. Chris Marschner_

    1. This falls into the human interest category of journalism so readers should expect it to be prejudicial. If this was a story reporting the accident in which all that is needed is the who what when where and how it would be inappropriate. Just as the knowing that wearing loose fitting clothes can be dangerous around machinery so too is understanding that human interest stories are written to evoke emotion to persuade and not merely inform.

    2 The Times can advocate for whatever it wants. The reader should understand that these are one sided stories. Why, because one sided stories are no different than the stories told that result in grand jury indictments that are not proven but highly suggestive for more inquiry.

    3. See above. The story is not to inform. It is designed to get people to emote which will drive sales of the paper. Who really wants to read just the basic facts.

    4. Disney must do what is best for Disney. That means achieving a balance between safety and risk. I can make a roller coaster that will never hurt anyone. It will be 1 foot tall by 3 feet long. If too risky people will not choose to pay. If too safe and no thrills no one will pay.

    5 very limited and only when there is no way for the user to assess risk. Thrill rides are thrill rides for a reason. They are inherently risky. You cannot shirk that personal responsibility to realize that.

    6. If a sign exists regarding loose clothing that info is also available to the employed gatekeeper. They have a responsibility to require the scarf be removed just as much as the rider had to take it off.

    7. Irrespective of injury responsibility requires assuming blame.

    8 No and No. Life is inherently risky, unfair and calamity strikes all indiscriminantly. There is no way to eliminate risk without severely restricting liberty.

    9. Such statements are routine. Some are just more eloquent when written by lawyers.
    I would bet that when the NYT gives a tour to school kids it requires NYPS to sign a “hold harmless” agreement. I also would bet they have a crisis management spokesperson and tells all employees to not speak to anyone in these events. If anything, the sinister tone is more hypocritical than anything.

    10. Her life would have been saved if she chose not to participate. Regulations cannot stop people from doing ill considered things. Yes he is biased but he should not be quieted because of his bias. It should just be recognized for what it is.

  3. James M.

    Whenever someone reports on a tragedy, their opinion of the situation will be shaped by which details they learned first, their past experiences with comparable situations, their internal ethics, and their empathy for any unfortunate victims. No reporter can completely divorce himself from these influences, nor would we want him to. A reporter’s moral obligation to present the truth doesn’t transform him into a news-dispensing machine, dispassionate and objective.

    Many people prefer to empathize with the reporters presenting their daily news, feeling that the reporter shares their hopes and fears. They know that reporters have opinions and preconceptions that influence how they report the facts before them, but they prefer things that way.

  4. A.M. Golden

    As someone who worked in customer service for many years, I can tell you that, when it comes to assigning blame – especially blame involves money – one weapon in the customer’s arsenal is always, “I didn’t see the sign”. Which, apparently, means that it wasn’t there.

  5. Other Bill

    Oh, Jeeze. Isadora Duncan. One of those icons of ‘sixties college women. Admired for dying young (most often at their own hand). Right up there with Slyvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. What a morbid time (in our history and of life).

  6. Chris Marschner_

    I scuba dive and everywhere I go I must sign a waiver that is 2 to 4 pages long. Some of the warnings are nonsensical such as scuba diving can result in drowning. No. Gee I wasn’t aware of that even though I am certified.
    It has gotten to the point that signing waivers becomes perfunctory that no one reads it anymore.

    Here is a question to ponder.

    Do all these regulations create a sense of ambivalence toward personal safety and risk assessment to such a degree that we no longer feel it necessary to think for ourselves?

    • Luke G

      I think there’s two reasons that could be the case:

      – When people are blasted with rules and safety warnings as moronic as “do not use this hair curler while asleep” or as blatantly designed to be ignored as “this is not a toy” on a pool inner tube, they begin to assume that all warnings are either pointlessly obvious or just corporate legal speak that doesn’t really warn of an actual danger, and ignore it all.

      – There’s multiple studies showing that the more safety features are in cars, the worse people drive. Not simply because they’re distracted by bells and whistles, but because they subconsciously compensate for the feeling of improved safety by driving more recklessly, thus keeping their base sensation of safety constant. People could be entering that realm with regulations, where the vague sense that “it’s regulated, it can’t be all that dangerous” results in riskier behavior.

  7. I feel more sorry for their kids being used as fodder for some random accident. Yes, wearing a loose scarf was foolish, I assume she would have been smart enough to not let her kids do the same. Looking cool is not good enough reason to ignore posted warnings. Doing scary things will always have an element of risk. That cannot be regulated away.
    These statistics just raise a red flag for me. 1) what is the rate for Europe as a whole and by individual nation, and how does that compare to the US and more regulated vs less regulated stated? I suspect the rates for are not that different considering the ‘superior regulation.’ I’ve seen stories about horrible accidents in Europe too. 2) Many accidents like standing up when supposed to be strapped in, end up being precipitated by customer error. No regulation can prevent stupid… 3) Before going apeshit, I’d also like to see the data split so fixed locations are separate from carnivals. I suspect fixed locations, the larger even moreso, have a marked lower rate than unmonitored mall rides and less anchored and sheltered traveling ones.

    This is one area of regulation where the pity factor is being over-used without sufficient data. There are no perfectly safe amusement rides that people will want to ride.

  8. “2. Should the Times be in the business of promoting regulations?”

    Should they…Are they?

    Ain’t that a back-@$$wards IsOught.?

  9. Andrew Wakeling

    Deciding between freedom and security / safety should be properly for the political process. Although I’m an enthusiast for all three countries I feel safer in the UK and Australia than I do in the US, particularly as regards health and safety, and food hygene regulations. I don’t care enough to collect relevant stats but my impression is that I’m more likely to be poisoned from a dirty kitchen at a cheap roadside restaurant in rural US than in Aus or UK. I would be less confident in the US than elsewhere that rides at a small fairground had been properly inspected. I wouldn’t have any worries about Disney because I’d trust them to be rational on the economics : injuring customers must surely damage profits. I have no complaint over any of this. I’m a guest in the US and don’t have a vote. (Although I don’t like it, I accept I am also more likely to be shot.)

    As regards reporting, the US promises a free press, and that means free to be biased. If you don’t like the NYT or WaPo biases then buy something else. If you can’t find news biased well for you ( you might call it ‘unbiased’) then write your own – which Jack you are well equipped to do. And of course ‘we’ the ‘great unwashed’ have the wonderful freedom to read it or not.

    • Journalists have a code of ethics, AW. They purport to be a profession, and to be committed to the values of independence, objectivity, honesty and responsible reporting. Not being familiar with how actual freedom of the press works, you can be excused for the confusion. No, journalists can’t be punished for being incompetent, dishonest and biased. It is still unethical journalism, and a betrayal of the press’s duty that accompanies their special privileges.

      • Andrew Wakeling

        The Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics which might bind its members ( against the possible threat of being expelled ) but as far as I can see this is just a members’ club. There is no requirement (nor could there be) for working journalists to be members, to be enforced by employers, nor any recognition in law or regulations. I can’t even see any reference in my NYT articles as to whether the journalist is a member.

        In my use of English I can’t recognise journalists in the US as being part of a ‘profession’, and I don’t recognise them as being ‘professionals’. Professions have qualifications, disciplinary systems and membership requirements other than payment of a subscription. When they work well (as they do generally in law and medicine) they provide a benefit to Society. We can rely on the professional acting in accordance with the profession’s codes and standards, and we have a route for redress if we believe they haven’t. In the world I know, members of professions are frequently privileged by law or regulations, eg to sign off licences, carry out medical operations, or provide representation in Court.

        I note from Wikapedia re the Society of Professional Journalists that …..”It has also drawn up a Code of Ethics that aims to inspire journalists to adhere to high standards of behavior and decision-making while performing their work”. Well that’s very laudable. But true professions have to ‘enforce’ rather than ‘aim to inspire’ and have to run the necessary disciplinary systems to do so.

    • The Shadow

      Some people mistakenly assume that the only successful regulation is at the national level. Even that greasy spoon has a county health inspector making sure they follow good food safety practices.

      As to the bigger picture, nanny state is a pejorative for a good reason. It can be a true slippery slope as we’ve seen with ridiculous bans on large sodas, etc. Regulation can be good for things we can’t know about or need specialized education for (e.g. I don’t have engineering expertise to know if a roller coaster is safe), but it should be obvious to anyone that gokarts can be dangerous and loose clothing can be dangerous around moving parts.

  10. Matthew B

    There should not be federal regulation on fixed rides because they are not inherently interstate commerce. Mobile rides do cross state lines, so they are interstate commerce. Lacking that interstate commerce, congress has no authority to regulate the fixed location rides.

    The typical products regulated by the CPSC are sold in every state, and therefore are interstate commerce.

    • Other Bill

      Federal courts can find interstate commerce anywhere they want to at the drop of a hat. Disney parks are nearly inter-galactic in the audiences they serve.

      • Matthew B.

        Wickard v. Filburn was the height of that view. The supreme Court seems to be dialing back since the 90’s. Hopefully with a further ideological shift, it will even more.

  11. luckyesteeyoreman

    This morning, I have peace of mind at last!

    After 6-plus decades of opportunity to learn, the following eternal, unchallengeable truth has finally become clear (It’s so simple! How and WHY I have lied to myself for so long, I’ll never know – but don’t need to.)…

    The power and reach of government can NEVER be too big.

    That’s it.
    So now I know, finally, what I really want.
    I want a law that puts me in complete control of everyone else’s money.
    Thanks in advance to everyone, for your generous contribution to my cause.
    Peace to you, too. [sardonic snickers]

  12. Arthur in Maine

    This is a terribly sad story. I have some expertise in this area in that I’ve been involved in many analogous cases from other amusement- and active outdoors-oriented industries, so let me offer some thoughts before I address the media component.

    Humans enjoy risk. This is why so many ski, rock climb, drive fast. This is why roller coasters are multi-million-dollar investments that pay off for theme parks.

    There is a substantive difference between that roller coaster and climbing Half Dome. Risk is part of the appeal for both, but there’s a significant difference between perceived risk and actual risk. The climber knows that he or she is participating in an inherently dangerous activity in which his or her own actions are the primary determinants for safety, and that even then bad things can happen (equipment failure, rockfall, etc.). The roller coaster rider, on the other hand, presumes upon boarding that the ride will provide a thrill but that the apparatus has been designed and tested to completely eliminate the risk.

    That’s an erroneous assumption on the part of the rider, by the way, even though the odds are in his favor. Any system, regardless of how well designed, can fail if the wrong combination of variables come into play. This is known as “the Cascade Effect.”

    Few major incidents are directly traceable to a single failure. The vast majority are the result of a progression of events or bad decisions, some of which may occur long before the actual incident. Analysis of the Gulf Oil Spill revealed the cascade started six months before the Deepwater Horizon exploded; the loss of Air France 447 traced back to the design of a pitot tube that tended to ice over, which impacted its effectiveness and thus sent erroneous information to flight computers. That cascade continued with a cockpit crew that hadn’t been trained on how to respond when instruments are giving clearly erroneous information.

    On that particular aircraft the tube was scheduled to be replaced, but the design issue was deemed non-critical so plane wasn’t taken out of service until replacement could happen. Another event in the cascade.

    We have advanced significantly in our ability forensically analyze such failures, and we do so in order to produce future improvements. We learn from them. If we have a known risk, it’s really up to the operator to ensure that this risk is managed to the extent possible. With this case, we see a clear cascade. Assuming the facts outlined in Jack’s synopsis are accurate, the operator was apparently aware that long items of clothing were potentially hazardous and placed warnings accordingly. So the cascade primarily involves training and supervision of staff – or, more specifically, an apparent lack thereof. As the old saying goes, the part of an automobile most likely to fail is the nut behind the wheel. You need to make systems, especially human systems, as fail-proof as possible.

    If a known hazard exists, one cannot presume that a sign, regardless of how visible, is enough. Staff needs to verify. There is simply no defense of which I’m aware that could absolve the operator from not ensuring that before releasing a batch of go-karts onto the track, staff didn’t do a final check on participants. This would include a quick visual check in order to ensure that obvious risks to customer safety, such as long items of loose clothing, weren’t present.

    That staff panicked and didn’t know what to do also bespeaks the absence of a clear, simple emergency response plan – an even earlier step on the cascade. This type of thing is actually quite easy to address, provided that management has considered the risks and taken appropriate steps to manage them. The operator doesn’t help him or herself with the tone-deaf directive about not admitting fault (there are MUCH better ways to handle this).

    So let’s talk about the media component here. Others respondents here have made some excellent points about the media and how it reacts to stories like this (I deal with this stuff from a communications perspective). Media almost invariably assumes that all accidents can be prevented (and this one in fact apparently could have been). Media will usually assume that the business is at fault and the victim is blameless (in this case we’d have a percentage of blame, but as noted, the lions share apparently goes to the business). Media thrives on stories that make people cluck their tongues, especially stories that support the narrative that businesses only want your money and to hell with your well-being.

    Calls for regulation, however, are problematic and, I would argue, wildly naive. The federal government is ill-equipped to monitor and regulate every recreation business out there; there are simply too many forms, with more gadgets and activities in development at all times.

    This is not to absolve the states; the way states regulate these activities – and most do – varies widely. Take ski resort operations as an example. Colorado, in which the ski industry is an important driver of tourist dollars, has strict statutes and regulatory processes governing ski lift design and operation. Colorado law also specifically attempts to create clear demarcation lines between the responsibilities of the operator and those of the customer (the plaintiff’s bar in Colorado hates the statutes, believing they do too much to protect the ski areas). In a state like Maine, in which skiing is important but nowhere near as much as Colorado, lift safety is actually overseen by the same department that checks elevators. And in some states that only have one or two ski areas, the state simply accepts the analysis and reports of independent engineers hired by the insurance companies (which, to be clear, have a vested interest in making sure that lifts are safe – more on this below) but does very little, if any, hands-on inspection.

    If we have that much variability in a mid-sized industry like skiing imagine the complexity involved in regulating recreational operators providing such diverse entertainments climbing walls, challenge courses, water parks, zip lines, horseback rides, go-kart tracks and dozens of others. Many of these activities actually include a variety of systems – mechanical, electrical, human. All present risks. How do you create a federal agency with the capability of regulating all of them? How do you even classify them in order to determine who regulates what?

    The progressive mindset, including much of the news media, appears to include the belief that you can legislate or regulate the universe into being a fair place – and when all else fails, you can litigate it into being so. That this is a patently ridiculous premise doesn’t change the desire.

    So, we’re left with a bit of a conundrum here. Yes, this family’s life was apparently inalterably and tragically ruined by what sure looks like negligence on the part of one operator, and even though I take a dim view of much litigation I’d almost certainly be sympathetic with the plaintiff were I on the jury (and again, assuming that the facts as laid out in Jack’s post are accurate – given the source of the story, that might not be quite the case).

    However, the idea of national regulation for such activities can only be burdensome and expensive. It would be likely to stifle innovation and put a fair number of small operators out of business. This is clearly a task best left to the states, though it’s clear that some states could do a better job.

    I do think there’s a larger role here for the insurance underwriters. Again, insurers have a vested interest in minimizing loss, and in some of the sectors I serve I see a growing number of them taking proactive steps with clients to review and beef up their approaches to minimizing risks through inspection, training and, if all else fails, steeper premiums. The underwriters of that go-kart track were, in my opinion, dumb not to at least review operating and training plans – which, if you think about it, represents another failure on the cascade.

  13. I wrote this without reading comments, wishing to take the test without outside influence.

    1. The writing of the article is inherently manipulative. The underlying implication is that government regulations would fix life, and that ain’t so.

    2. The NYT is a shill for Marxists, who want total control of everyone’s lives for their own benefit. (How much is the leader of Venezuela worth, compared to his average citizen? Who had country dacha in the old USSR?)
    As such, I would run to a window to verify if the NYT assert the sky is blue.They do not write soup recipes without an agenda. It is who they are, what they have become.

    3. They included rental bouncy houses in that number, the story said. Sounds a lot like the “X number of children are killed by guns each year” progressives tout, which is ALWAYS a lie (they call anyone up to 21 a child, for instance, and get the gang bangers in that number: they also include those shooting at police who are killed by return fire)

    4. Disney is a heartless corporate giant. Regardless, they have the proper motivation to keep things safe, while unelected faceless bureaucrats do not. (see “death panels”) Government out of Disney and Disney out of Government! 🙂

    5. Never. Using fleeting emotion to enact an agenda is immoral and unethical.

    6. The victim was an idiot wearing the scarf in the first place. Fine disconnect with reality shown by the family. She did not deserve her fate, but contributed most of the factors that caused it. Sheesh. Such parks have ‘At your Own Risk’ signs posted everywhere.

    7. Bullshit. I want sympathy because I keep cutting myself on my book binder. So do I tape up the binder, or get a new one? No, I’ll just bleed everywhere and make you pander to me. Who is to blame for my injuries?

    8. Government should stay OUT of the risk mitigating business. We have courts and insurance for that function. Plus, bureaucrats really suck at making anything they touch better.

    9. Including that sentence was a hack job by a propaganda organization.

    10. The husband has to shift the blame for his lack of attention or common sense to somewhere (anywhere) else. He is not malicious, just human in that regard. He has two kids to raise now and must soldier on alone.

    As an aside, I weep for this family. They are serving a sentence far worse than the crime they committed: that of being self absorbed to the point of inattention causing grievous injury in a unusual way. Odds that generally run in our favor came up snake eyes that day, in this case.

    I know something about little things causing major changes to lives: my wife’s mom died when my wife was 6. She hit a tree beside their road less than half a mile from home. She had a habit of keeping her purse on the floorboard by her feet on the ‘hump’ cars used to have, and the purse was always falling into the passenger floorboard, upon which she would lean over to grab it, sometimes swerving a bit. Her family was always telling her it was dangerous, but the habit seemed innocent enough. No one knows for sure, but that is the odds on bet of how she left the road that day. My wife’s life was altered in many ways that day, most of them terrible for her.

    What regulation would have stopped that accident? Government cannot guarantee an elimination of all personal risk, and should not try.

    These things happen. Life is fragile, more than we are willing to recognize, else we would never live our lives as we do. “Near misses all around me, accidents unknown” is a line from a song that sums it up.

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