America is a country so rich in human and material resources, so bountifully supplied with reserves of raw materials and surpluses of goods, that we have been inclined to be wasteful and extravagant. Except in a few fields, we have not been accustomed to practice thrift and conservation on a national scale. An outstanding example of this characteristic is our indifference toward the waste of life and property from automobile accidents.
Considering the ever increasing magnitude of these losses and their enhanced importance now in terms of loss of man-hours in production and of manpower in our fighting services, we might expect to find a growing appreciation of the need for solving the accident problem. But on the contrary there is a tendency today to relegate highway safety to the limbo of non-essential activities. The reason, seldom openly expressed, which underlies this attitude is: "Transportation of men and materials by motor vehicles has always involved dangers and losses. In war time we must be prepared to pay the price, however high it may be." Those who have taken this attitude apparently have failed to realize that automobile accidents result primarily from human inefficiencies which, when they are removed, tend to speed up transportation, and that safer transportation would inevitably result in the more efficient functioning of our military machine as well as of our industrial organization.
Another indication of our indifference toward the automobile casualty problem is the scarcity of organized information on the subject. Outside of a few specialized technical books, mostly on the engineering and enforcement phases of safety, some elementary instruction manuals, an assortment of undigested statistics, and a considerable amount of twaddle, there is a glaring deficiency of literature on either the theory or the practice of accident control. We have hardly begun the task of building up a science of automobile accident prevention.
Although the amount of available accredited knowledge about highway accidents is paltry, it should nevertheless be pointed out that certain phases of the problem at least have been of concern to a variety of different groups. Thus army officers are vitally interested in having military vehicles reach their objectives; automobile insurance officials, in reducing the number and cost of claims; vehicle fleet supervisors, in cheaper and faster transportation; psychologists, in tests of driving skill; highway and . . .