Monday, March 12, 2007

Mississippi at the Bottom - Again

I always cringe when I see an article about national rankings of states. Whatever the measurement is, I know Mississippi will be at the bottom. I've heard it said that people in Arkansas and Louisiana say "Thanks heavens for Mississippi - it keeps us from being 50th." When I was flying to Austria recently, I was having a conversation with a German woman. She asked where in America I lived. I said Mississippi and asked if she'd heard of it. She said, "Oh, yes! The state that's at the bottom of everything." Ouch! That's pretty bad - our reputation has reached all the way to Europe.

I read a new rankings article today. I decided that whenever I come across one, I'll post the results here. Usually we just ignore this unpleasant news, but maybe we should pay attention to it. Maybe we can learn something.

The headline for this story said "Deadliest, Safest States for Truck Crashes". More than 100 people a week are killed in large truck crashes in this country. Large trucks account for 3 percent of registered vehicles but 12 percent to 13 percent of traffic fatalities. Trying to increase awareness of this problem, the Truck Safety Coalition announced state rankings, based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2005, the most recent year with complete statistics.

The good news is Mississippi is not the deadliest. The bad news is that we're fifth behind Wyoming, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. (Guess Arkansas can't thank heavens for Mississippi this time.)

The main objective of the Truck Safety Coalition was to pressure the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which was created by Congress in 1999, and which has "failed miserably" according to the Coalition. It's true that a federal agency could undoubtedly make a difference. However, the more interesting question to me is why some states are so much worse than others.

The answer may be in a quote from the agency issued in its defense. "We have invested millions of dollars working with the state and local law enforcement community to do more safety reviews and roadside inspections of trucks and buses than ever before.” The federal government, while willing to be supportive, is leaving enforcement up to the states. Some states obviously do a better job than others.

Look at the 5 states at the top of the deadliest list. They're all conservative (red) states that believe that the less regulation of business the better - "keep the government off my back". Now look at the safest states: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, New Hampshire. They're all liberal (blue) states that love government regulation.

The question in this and many similar regulation dilemmas is whether the safety factor outweighs the economic cost or vice versa. Interestingly, the safest states are also the wealthiest, and the deadliest states are the poorest.

Okay, I'm trying something new. I'm putting a poll on this site so viewers can vote on an issue. This is a free service that will put an ad on my page somewhere. So we'll see how we like this.

There was a poll here that asked: "What should be done about the high number of deadly truck crashes in Mississippi? "
  • "Nothing." 1 vote
  • "Let the federal government handle it." 1 vote
  • "Mississippi should increase its regulation of the trucking industry." 29 votes

UPDATE: I just received this email: Hey Casey, Check out this site ! You will find a person who, after having a conversation with a youngster about Mississippi while traveling on a plane, came up with this campaign.


Anonymous said...

The federal government could f*** up a wet dream. Why in the world would we want MORE federal regulation?

Anonymous said...

As an addendum to my previous comment: I don't differentiate between democrat or republican controlled federal government.

Anonymous said...

We might want more federal regulation to save lives.

Anonymous said...

OK, so explain to me exactly how more federal regulations would "save lives". They can't enforce the ones they have on the books right now, and Federal Programs tend to be massive boondoggles. Ask anyone who has intimate experience with "No Child Left Behind", Medicare, Medicaid, or current federal DOT or DOL guidelines. I deal with all of the above in my current job. I stand by my comment: Federal=FUBAR