The Houston Texans are holding training camp in Houston, where it has been routinely very hot and humid. What the team is doing is making a clear distinction between the assessment of human health risk (in this case, from heatstroke and dehydration) and the management of these risks. It’s an interesting lesson showing why the conventional methods of human health risk assessment used by government are so flawed.
Category Archives: Safety
Economic incentive schemes are popular among economists and increasingly embraced by legislators. Cap-and-trade to control greenhouse gas emissions is perhaps the most visible of these incentive schemes. Pigouvian taxes are the other, and news today from an unexpected source provides useful and interesting lessons in how such taxes can work — and how they can degenerate into plain vanilla taxes.
Last week the Supreme Court reversed an appellate court opinion that would have imposed $2.5 billion in punitive damages resulting from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. In the majority opinion written by Justice David Souter, the Court opined on a matter of maritime law for which there was neither a constitutional precedent nor operating law. The Court ruled that a 1:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages “is a fair upper limit in such maritime cases.”
Washington Post staff writer Tim Craig reports that the Virginia legislature is expected to repeal the law that authorized the voluntary tax on bad Virginia drivers. The action follows a Virgina Supreme Court decision issued on February 29 declaring unconstitutional the legislature’s other 2006 transportation policy innovation — the creation of unelected regional authorities with the power to levy taxes.
Craig’s article is something of a murder board — a dissection of what went wrong with the so-called abusive driver fee law, which we have characterized less pejoratively as a voluntary tax on particularly bad drivers who hold Virginia licenses. It’s a voluntary tax because no driver is compelled to commit any of the offenses that give rise to the fee, and it’s a tax on Virginians because it does not apply to out-of-state drivers. The Virgina Department of Motor Vehicles, which was charged with enforcing the law, has no leverage over them. The DMV could suspend the licenses of Virginia drivers who failed to pay the fee, but it had no authority over out-of-state drivers.
A recent story involving an erroneous test report about child safety seats published byConsumer Reports shows how information quality is not just a concern related to information disseminated by the federal government.
It also illustrates the value of genuinely independent peer review. Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that does much more than product testing. It is an activist organization that routinely takes strong positions on a wide range of public policy issues, including child safety seats.
CU’s activism creates an inherent conflict of interest with its product testing functions. Credibility as a product safety tester requires, at a minimum, an extraordinarily rigorous program of independent peer review. Currently, CU relies solely on internal peer review.
The tragic bus crash outside Atlanta killed five Bluffton University baseball players, the driver, and his wife. News reports indicate that many more remain hospitalized, some in serious or critical condition.
There is a great deal of commentary in the press and in the blogosphere, much of it focused on assigning blame. We are not going to add to that.
We provide links to the most useful information we’ve found of interest to highway risk analysts, who take seriously their commitment to improve safety but also realize that they cannot prevent all catastrophic bus crashes.