It’s more than potato, potahto … it’s being upfront and setting realistic expectations.
Government officials and safety advocacy groups often use the term “crash avoidance.” It’s been in their vernacular for decades, so it’s perhaps a bit difficult to dislodge. Read any bill, law, or regulation, or listen to anyone talk about safety systems that are designed to help two vehicles not run into each other, and the term used is “collision avoidance.”
At Bendix, we prefer the term “crash mitigation.” The reason for the word differentiation? First, it’s essential to keep in mind that safety technologies complement safe driving practices. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times. Next, avoidance is really unattainable in all cases, whereas mitigation covers a broader spectrum. Mitigation reinforces the fact that even with a system on board your vehicle, the laws of physics or other circumstances mean you may still have the crash – but the system can assist in potentially making it less severe.
Let’s take a look at the definitions of “avoidance” and “mitigation” and you’ll see what I’m getting at:
Dictionary.com, one of my favorite references, defines “avoidance” as “the act of avoiding or keeping away from.” (Don’t you just love definitions that define a word with a version of the word?) The word “avoid,” from which “avoiding” and “avoidance” are derived, means “1) to keep away from; keep clear of; shun or 2) to prevent from happening.” (Granted, “shunning” a crash is an interesting thought, but the practicality escapes me.)
Mitigation, on the other hand, is defined as “the act of mitigating” – oh no, not again; another definition with the word in it! Let’s just skip to the root word “mitigate” and start there. Mitigate is defined as “1) to lessen in force or intensityand 2) to make less severe.”
As mentioned earlier, mitigation in terms of crash mitigation technology is perhaps a more fitting word than avoidance. Why? In a nutshell, it’s more accurate. Much as we’d like to say collision mitigation technologies will help drivers avoid all crashes, the truth is they won’t. Drivers may still have crashes, even if their vehicle is equipped with one of the active safety systems like the Bendix® Wingman® Fusion™ family of technologies.
Setting expectations also makes mitigation the better word. If your expectation is that the system will “avoid” all crashes, disappointment awaits. Per our earlier discussion, collision mitigation systems can help drivers, but they won’t prevent all crashes in all situations. Mitigation means you may have fewer crashes, but the potential exists that you may still have some crashes – they won’t all be avoided.
This isn’t a bad thing, though. I think it’s fair to say that across our collective trucking industry, our wish and our goal is to continually improve the technologies available so one day we can help drivers mitigate most, if not all, crash situations. This doesn’t mean today’s systems don’t help.
What’s in a word? Truth and expectation! Think crash mitigation, not crash avoidance. You’ll be less disappointed when something happens.
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