Safety Times logo Live Safely in a Dangerous World
HomeAbout the BookSample PagesPress RoomOrderingReproducible ArticlesContact Us

  Author Interview

From The Boox Review

1) After all those years in finance and risk management at Southwestern Bell, what finally prompted you to step out and pick up the accident prevention baton and lead the safety parade for an even bigger audience?

In 1991, during the final year of my 34-year career at Southwestern Bell Corp., I decided to do a study of our on-the-job and off-the-job accident costs. I found that we were spending more money on off-the-job accidents experienced by employees and dependents than we were spending on on-the-job accidents. But our accident prevention efforts were heavily weighted to on-the-job safety. Part of the reason, in my opinion, was that there was not a lot of good off-the-job safety material available for employers to use in their publications for a reasonable price. When I retired at the end of 1991, I started Safety Times, which was a four-page, bimonthly newsletter that employers could copy or use in their publications

Also, my father died unexpectedly one night when I was nine years old, and my sister was ten months old, so I know what it feels like to lose a loved one suddenly. Through the book, I hope to reduce these life-altering events.

In addition, I was almost killed in 1972 when a fully-loaded semi-trailer truck ran a red light in Tulsa, OK, and struck my car. I had done a dumb thing and a smart thing, and fortunately I survived. The dumb thing I did was that I was timing a traffic light on my way back to the office after depositing my paycheck. Instead of stopping at the light, I just slowed down well before the light. When the light turned green, I accelerated through the intersection. Since I was the first car through the intersection after the light turned green, I should have checked for cross-traffic before proceeding. Also, there was a building on the corner which obstructed my vision. Unfortunately I didn't check for cross-traffic, and when I entered the intersection, I suddenly saw a large truck bearing down on me. I remember thinking that my life was over. The truck driver and I swerved slightly at the last instant, and he struck my car on the right fender on the passenger side. The impact spun me around 180 degrees, and I went over a curb, knocking down a street sign. The car was totaled. The truck careened into a parking lot, hitting six other cars. No pedestrians were around, and the truck driver was not injured.

The smart thing I did was buckle my lap belt for the six-block trip. Southwestern Bell had always stressed the use of seat belts, and I survived the collision with a minor whiplash. If I had not used my belt I surely would have been ejected from the car, because the driver-side door flew open upon impact.

Another note here is that in reviewing my family tree, my grandfather was killed in a railroad switching-yard accident when my mother was three; and my uncle died from a stroke he suffered while trying to haul a deer that he shot out of the woods.

1A) So maybe it's safe to say that you feel a certain sort of grace -- perhaps the idea that with great power comes great responsibility?

The way I have chosen to use that experience is to encourage people through my publications to develop Personal Safety Plans. Part of a Personal Safety Plan is to have a backup plan. For example, when you go fishing you need to take some emergency items, including a cell phone, in case you run into difficulty. Regarding my accident, my backup plan was wearing a seat belt. I'm very appreciative of the fact I worked for a company that stressed seat belt use.

2) Live Safely in a Dangerous World is chockfull of statistics and facts, many of which are not only startling, but compelling. Yet it seems that many of the same people who have been exposed to your message may not ultimately heed it. Why is it so hard for some of us to wake up and smell the coffee?

First, most people think accidents won't happen to them. In a sense that's good, because we don't want a nation of people walking around thinking the sky is about to fall. On the other hand, we need to be aware of the likelihood that many of us will be involved in serious accidents, or have close calls, sometime in our lives. If people were more aware of the possibility that they will probably suffer several serious accidental injuries during their lives, they might pay more attention to safety and develop a Personal Safety Plan. The statistics are as follows:

     * Each year, over 90,000 Americans (1-in-3,000) die in accidents.

     * Annually, over 30,000,000 Americans (1-in-9) go to emergency  rooms due to accidents. About 200,000 of these injuries result in permanent disabilities.

     * For males, the lifetime odds of dying in an accident are 1-in-30.

     * For females, the lifetime odds of dying in an accident are 1-in-60.

     * Lifetime odds of dying in a motor-vehicle accident are 1-in-100.

     * Accidents rob us of more years of life before we reach age 65 than any other cause of death.

     * Accidents are the leading cause of death from ages one to thirty-eight.

As noted, males have many more fatalities. The average life span for males in the U.S. is about five years less than for females. One reason given by doctors is that many males think they are invulnerable, so they don't go to doctors. That same attitude carries over to safety.

Each year, males have about 9,000 more drunk-driving deaths than females; 2,300 more motorcycle deaths; and 1,700 more pedestrian deaths, many associated with alcohol. Males have about 5,000 more poisoning deaths, primarily due to drug overdoses. Males also have about 2,000 more drowning deaths, and over 4,000 more work-related fatalities.

Second, the word "accident" is used incorrectly. The dictionary defines accident as "an unexpected and undesirable event, something that occurs unexpectedly or unintentionally, fortune or chance." However, is an accident unexpected when someone using a ladder reaches out too far instead of taking time to reposition the ladder, and then falls? Does an accident occur by fortune or chance when a person consistently tailgates and then slams into the driver ahead of him in a moment of inattention? The obvious answer is no! Most accidents can be better described as failures. They are failures on our part and failures on the part of others.

Also, we have come to accept the carnage from accidents as "normal." If 90,000 people were dying each year from the SARS or West Nile viruses, can you imagine the uproar that would ensue? But as a nation we accept 90,000 accidental deaths as the norm, when in truth, virtually every accidental death is preventable. In addition, safety has never been regarded as a top priority in this country. The benefits of exercise, healthy eating, and weight-loss programs receive constant attention in the media. But it's rare that we see an article in the paper or a feature on TV regarding safety. For example, when a holiday approaches we see numerous references estimating how many people will die on the roadways. But we hardly ever see a list of tips on how to drive safely on long trips.

2A) But why is that? The statistics alone would seem to carry some media compulsion to explore the issues in a bigger way.

I'm still searching for an answer to this question. I feel that since the numbers don't change much from year to year, the media don't see the sheer number of fatalities and emergency room visits as much of a story. We need a large, national organization to get behind the concept of developing a Personal Safety Plan. Most organizations that have an interest in safety focus on their particular concern(s), but no one is pushing the concept of developing an overall Plan. Hopefully I can get some large companies to support the development of Personal Safety Plans.

3) How long did it take for you to deliver the final draft of Live Safely in a Dangerous World once you were committed to your initial inspiration? It is an amazingly comprehensive book.

I published the Safety Times newsletter for 10 1/2 years, from July, 1992 through December, 2002. All the information and illustrations in the book came from the newsletter. Virtually every article in the book was published at least twice in the newsletter. That means it was reviewed and edited by safety experts and subject matter experts at least twice. After publishing the newsletter for about nine years, and developing safety tips on as many topics as I could identify, in 2001 I decided to publish the material in a book. I reviewed all the topics, and made updates to reflect current statistics and recent safety tips. I have a file for each topic, and if I come across a new safety tip I put it in my files. I decided to self-publish the book because I believe this book will be useful for many years to come, and I wanted to have control of the content when new printings are done. Cypress House, a company that publishes books and also works with self-publishers, helped me with the cover, layout, and final editing.

4) When you're on the road on your speaking circuit, what sort of questions or concerns do you hear voiced on a regular basis?

First, “Why do males have more accidents? Are they just dumber?” My reply is that since I am a male, I am not going to agree that we're dumber; however, we do more dumb things when it comes to safety.

Another question is, “Do personal safety programs work?” While there are no overall studies on this subject, I am convinced that developing a Personal Safety Plan will reduce the odds that you will be involved in a serious accident, just as developing a healthy lifestyle will reduce your chances of having a serious disease.

I also point out there are many examples of how accidents have been reduced by emphasizing safety. To mention just a few: Drunk driving fatalities, although still way too high, are down by more than 30% from 1989 to 1999. Boating deaths have been reduced by more than 50% in the past thirty years, even though the number of boats has increased. (1,750 deaths in the early 1970s to 695 in 2002.) Organizations with aggressive safety programs have off-the-job accident rates well below the rate of the general public. DuPont is one example. Another example is the U.S. Navy. They have reduced deaths associated with off-duty recreation by more than 50% in the past ten years as the result of an aggressive safety program..

However, as a society, we have not made any progress recently in reducing accidents overall. The current annual accidental death rate is about 35 per 100,000 population. Unfortunately, the 35 per 100,000 rate has stayed about the same for the past 10 years. We did make a lot of progress prior to the past decade. In the early 1900s, the death rate was about 90 per 100,000. In the past decade, the motor-vehicle death rate has declined; but the death rate in the home has increased, primarily due to drug overdoses and falls.

4A) If you could be assured that your readers would adopt just one of the many tips and suggestions you make in Live Safely in a Dangerous World, what one would you hope for most (and why)?

The most important safety tip in my book is to try to make every driving trip a "perfect" trip, from the Defensive Driving topic. Among other things, this involves wearing safety belts, being sober, honoring speed limits, staying three seconds or more behind the vehicle in front, looking for possible hazards, and adjusting for weather and road conditions. Most of us make tens of thousands of driving trips in our lifetime, and nothing serious happens. As a result, we tend to grow complacent when we make a trip. As I’ve noted earlier, 1-in-100 of us die in motor vehicle accidents. Every trip we make has some hazards that we need to be aware of.

 

| Home | About the Book | Sample Pages | Press Room | Ordering |
Reproducible Articles | Contact Us |