Scene: Continuation of conversation between Jordan and JC, a long-time friend.  Conversation started as deciding on a simple, understandable theme for government policies following Revenge Revolution.  Jordan and JC agreed to a one-day deadline to complete the work.  When finished, Jordan would schedule a review with POTUS.  Conversation begins Entry #131.

JC and Jordan concluded the standard measure for future government policies should be ‘treat thy neighbor as thyself.’  They also agreed to assess whether the standard is appropriate for corporate policy.  Disney was the first case.  GM the second case.”

JC:  “Whew.  I’m back and feel much better.”

Jordan:  “I needed a break, too.”

010414_1635_16TeachingS1.jpgJC:  “OK, back to the list.  Who’s on the list for being at fault in Ignitiongate?”

Jordan:  “We agreed on GM.  #2 could be the driver.”

JC:  “You implied that before the break.  That seems awfully cruel.”

Jordan:  “But what if the driver is under the influence of something – alcohol or drugs?  Remember during two seconds…one thousand one, one thousand two…a car going 60 miles per hour travels 176 feet.”

JC:  “More than half the length of a football field.  I remember.”

figure-thinking-hiJordan:  “So any kind of delay in reacting can have major consequences.  But I think there’s a third element that I’ve not heard anyone talk about.”

JC:  “And that is?”

Jordan:  “Driver education.”

JC:  “You mean good old driver’s ed classes?”

Jordan:  “Exactly.  How many students, especially those under say age 30-35, do you think were taught how to drive the car without power steering or power brakes?  How many students even know that you don’t need power steering or power brakes to operate the car safely?”

JC:  “Probably not many.  And from what I read many accidents after the ignition switch failed involved younger drivers.”

Ignition SwitchJordan:  “The cars with the faulty switch were smaller, lower-priced.  Drivers of these cars are generally younger.”

JC:  “So you’re saying GM’s at fault but others might be at fault as well, right?”

Jordan:  “If we assume that fault is split evenly among GM, drivers and driver’s ed, then merely pointing the finger at GM…or in your case giving the finger to GM…does not address a broader issue – personal responsibility.”

JC:  “How do you address the broader problem?”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Fining GM a huge amount of money might make some people feel good and it might change some behavior inside the company, but it doesn’t address the problem of driver responsibility and certainly not address the scope and quality of driver’s education classes.”

JC:  “Why isn’t GM fighting some of these cases in court?”

Jordan:  “Good question.  They likely have data that indicates some very irresponsible driving.”

JC:  “How would they get that kind of data?”

Jordan:  “You know your car has a black box, much like an airplane’s black box, right?”

black boxJC:  “Say what?  There’s a black box in my car that tracks my driving?”

Jordan:  “Yes, and black boxes have been around since the early 1990’s.  And there were two reason the boxes were installed: #1, safety.  The data were used to help analyze conditions prior to an accident.  #2, and less publicized, the data provided some defense against spurious law suits.”  (Article, 13 07 21 NYT re Black-Boxes in Cars)

JC:  “With all these data, you’d think GM would fight some of these cases.  Why aren’t they?”

Jordan:  “My guess is GM doesn’t want to tarnish their image.  Think about it.  GM clearly was to blame for the faulty ignition switch.  How would it look if they started to pin part of the blame on a driver, even if it’s more than justified?”

JC:  “I see what you mean.  It’s a no-win situation.  Go to court and fight and more media coverage about the faulty switch.  Then blame some or all of the accident on the driver and you look like a real a-hole.”

cowboy-clip-artJordan:  “And gun-slinging lawyers know the image dilemma for high-profile companies like GM.  So what do they do?”

JC:  “File a suit, even of the case is flimsy, because they know the company…GM in this case…likely will settle out of court to avoid tarnishing their image.”

Jordan:  “For GM, the case is a no-win.  For lawyers and the plaintiffs they corral, it’s no lose.  The case is on a contingency basis so plaintiffs have no cost.”

JC:  “Don’t doctors suffer from the same problem…spurious lawsuits?”

Jordan:  “Yes and just for the record, I agree that some, maybe even most of the plaintiffs deserve an award.  There are people injured through no fault of they own.  But, there are many cases…”

starbucksJC:  “…like the one against Starbucks.  The cop gets free coffee…free mind you…then doesn’t check if the lid is tight.  Spills coffee in his crotch and claims some kind of injury.  Except when the facts came out, the injury or condition, or whatever he claimed it was, existed prior to spilling the coffee.  Talk about ungrateful.”

Jordan:  “Fortunately Starbucks won the case.  But in cases with multiple claimants, like GM and the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there are a number of people who file lawsuits who have absolutely no right to any damages.  In fact I know one of the BP plaintiffs who suffered not a single dollar loss yet claimed damages of something like $400,000.”

JC:  “Did he get paid?”

Jordan:  “You know, I never asked.  I was so infuriated with the idea of filing a claim that I never followed up.”

JC:  “Alright, let’s lay out a policy for the GM case based on the standard, ‘treat thy neighbor as thyself’.  What’s the policy?”

Jordan:  “First, GM is at fault.  Everyone agrees, even GM.  Some fine should be levied.  There might have been criminal activity with intentionally covering up the flaw and/or not reporting to NHTSA.”

NHTSA-1990sLogo_svgJC:  “What’s NHTSA?”

Jordan:  “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Any safety related defect you have to report.  Apparently GM did not.  #2, GM should be liable for some of the injuries and deaths that occurred.  However, GM should not be responsible for injury or death where there was excessive speed and/or occupants unbelted.  GM cannot be held liable for irresponsible behavior by a driver or passenger.”

drivers-ed-cartoon2JC:  “What’s the third?”

Jordan:  “Driver education classes, whether private or in public schools, need to include a section of learning to operate the vehicle without power steering and without power brakes.  Make it part of the driver’s test.  You don’t want to take your first lesson in an emergency.”

JC:  “You think any of these changes will occur any time soon?”

Jordan:  “No, unless the public starts to demand them.  As an example of how disconnected some legislators are with reality, Republicans in the North Carolina senate wanted to eliminate all driver training in schools.  Turn age 15, take a test and get a permit with no training whatsoever.”

backwards-dayJC:  “What a back asswards way of thinking.  What happened?”

Jordan:  “The public forced them to drop the idea.  The legislator’s kind of thinking and lots of other issues helped precipitate the Revenge Revolution.  The public is still hungry for change.  This is an ideal time for these proposals.”

JC:  “One last thought.  Does GM deserve the one-fingered salute?”

Jordan:  “Not now.  Their screw-up with Ignitiongate was some years ago.  Management seems committed to improving.  Let’s give them a bit more time before you give the salute.”

call centerJC:  “I’ll wait.  What’s next on the agenda?”

Jordan:  “Call centers based in foreign countries…after we have something to eat.”

More about the origination of the blog and the author, Entry #1.

Ebook format of recent series of entries on Federal Budget.  15 05 23 Do They Really Understand Entries #121-#130