Thursday, December 3, 2009

Telepresence: Better than Airbags!

Passenger car fatalities have dropped from 23,000 in 1985 to 17,800 in 2006, according to the US Department of Transportation.  Every two months, more people are killed on our roads than died in the 9/11 attack. 

The decrease in highway deaths across the years is doubtless due to a number of factors. Airbags alone are credited with saving 6377 lives since 1990 (of the 600,110 total road deaths, according to DOT) since then. 

But here’s a proposal for saving many more lives:  encourage telecommuting.  What would this achieve?  Let’s look at some figures.

Some workers cannot telecommute at all, due to the nature of their jobs. Others could telecommute virtually every day.  Let’s assume that only 50% of the workforce could telecommute at all, and that of that 50%, the average would be 1 day per week. I think this is likely a very low estimate, but let’s go with it for now.  So we now have the average American worker telecommuting ¼ day per week. 

Let’s also assume that of the miles driven in a day, the commute represents an average of 50%.  Again, probably low, but it’s a start.  The workweek driving miles are now reduced by 1/8 (12.5%) of a day’s commute per 5-day workweek, averaged across all workers, or 2.5% for the week. 

Fatality rates are based on miles driven.  This means that as we reduce the number of miles driven, we also reduce the number of fatalities.  Cut miles by 2.5%?  You reduce deaths by 2.5%. 

And what’s 2.5% of 600,000?  15,000 lives!  Telecommuting, even if as sparsely applied as this, would save over twice as many lives as airbags! 

This makes HD Voice, videoconferencing, and telepresence all potent tools for safety because they greatly ease the process of the telecommute.  What are we waiting for?

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