JULY 7, 1956
HYDE PARK—The recent airplane tragedy over the Grand Canyon dramatically points up the fact that human failure and coincidence rarely can be accounted for.
We probably should have realized long ago that, with increased air travel, we should make a more careful study of the coordination of aircraft controls if it is true, as I read in the newspapers, that in this air accident one plane was flying in its allotted lane and the other plane's pilot was told he could fly 1,000 feet above the storm, bringing it into the same lane.
If this was what happened, then there should be some way of communicating changes of orders which are given to the pilots. But there still is the coincidence factor, which must have amounted to a matter of seconds in bringing these two planes together at the same spot at the same time.
How such things can be prevented, I don't know. But we must try to develop the best possible safeguards in aircraft control, and this problem is going to become increasingly difficult to solve as air traffic grows.
Someone pointed out the other day that the loss of lives in this tragic accident would not equal the number of lives lost over the Fourth of July holiday (128 persons perished in the double air crash and Fourth of July traffic accidents killed 138 in the nation), yet we continue to use automobiles just as we continue to fly airplanes.
There probably is something that also could be done to make motoring less dangerous, if everyone observed all the traffic rules and automobiles were not geared to ever-increasing speed, which seems to be the objective of every automobile maker.
So many more persons are involved in operation of cars every day that the education of all drivers is becoming increasingly more important. I am glad that some schools are beginning to teach young people, even before they are eligible to drive a car, that good judgment is necessary and probably only comes with age.
Perhaps with good training we may lessen the recklessness of young people, who have been responsible for a great many accidents. They are often so much quicker in their reactions that they become overconfident and, at some point, this overconfidence betrays them.
However, there are more fatal accidents involving drivers over 50 years old than those where the drivers are under 20. That is probably because the older people react more slowly in an emergency and, while they generally drive more carefully, they are not as apt to be as alert to what others will do. Therefore, when they are involved in an accident, it is likely to be a serious one.
All we older people can do so as not to endanger ourselves or others is to try to keep our minds constantly on the road when we are driving and not be distracted by anything that makes us less alert to the things that are happening along our line of travel.