CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

“The Life You Might Save Might Be Mine”

James Dean’s eerily prophetic traffic safety PSA, filmed on the set of Giant. Some later work has tried to sort out why the crash happened (arguing for the inconspicuity of Dean’s car and perhaps a form of “inattentional blindness”).

An article in the Telegraph goes on to assert:

“Now, new evidence has emerged proving that not only was Dean driving safely, but at a much lower speed than was believed at the time.

It has long been part of Hollywood lore that Dean, with his passion for fast cars and reputation for rebellious behaviour, was driving his high-powered Porsche Spyder 550 when he and Rolf Weutherich, a mechanic, smashed into another car on a Californian highway.

A ground-breaking documentary by Channel 5, however, has unearthed evidence that Dean, contrary to what was said at the inquest into his death, was travelling at just over 70mph, up to 20mph slower than was claimed. It reveals that Dean braked hard, trying to avoid the car that cut across him, rather than using the throttle to accelerate around it, as was alleged at the time.”

Just over 70 mph on a state highway represents driving “safely”? (Dean had already received one speeding ticket before the crash; not to mention the crash protection of that era’s cars was minimal). This is not a scientific term. Would a 55 mph Dean have survived?

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 21st, 2009 at 6:15 pm and is filed under Risk, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to ““The Life You Might Save Might Be Mine””

  1. Yogi Says:

    The “safely” part refers to the notion that he was NOT trying to “beat it around” the other car. As for the speed, damage goes up approximately exponentially with the speed, so the extra 20 MPH would probably have been significant, if the injuries he sustained were not massively damaging (about which I don’t know.)

  2. Opus the Poet Says:

    One other thing is the speed limit way back then was 70 MPH in that area, so doing 70 would have been considered safe. We have been warped by two decades of the double nickel as to what constitutes a safe speed. The other thing that has been warped has been our responses to speed limits, the 35 limit outside my house results in actual speeds of 45 to 50 MPH in a residential area. Speed limits need to be more strictly enforced.

  3. SkidMark Says:

    The Porsche 550 Spyder had an aluminum body, no rollbar, and a frameless plexiglass windshield. I don’t think Dean would have survived that crash at any speed.

  4. LBJ's Love Child Says:

    “Would a 55 mph Dean have survived?”

    In that car? No, as SkidMark noted.

    Also, I’m not sure California (or anyplace other than Nevada) had a 70 mph speed limit in the ’50s… probably 60 mph.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

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Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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