The Boston Globe — The fatal crash between a duck boat and a woman on a scooter near Boston Common Saturday has raised concerns about the safety of the large, amphibious vehicles, particularly of the sightlines for drivers who tower above traffic on busy city streets.
“Anybody can see that the duck boat has a blind spot,” said Peter Furth, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University. “The driver is up high and there’s some structure of the boat blocking the view of what’s down on the ground right in front of them.”
Robert J. Mongeluzzi, a lawyer who represents the family of a woman who was fatally struck by a duck boat managed by a Philadelphia-based company last year, said drivers cannot see significant areas directly in front and behind the vehicle.
“There’s no way to make an overly large, World War II military weapon with blind spots safe to drive on city streets,” he said.
It goes without saying that a woman losing her life in an accident like this is a horrible tragedy. We all have nothing but sympathy for her family and the passenger on the scooter she was driving and wish them nothing but the sincerest condolences. So in no way is what I’m about to say should be taken as a lack of respect for them or even their attorney, who’s merely advocating for his client.
That said, is this our response to a tragic accident? To say that all duck boats are deadly and need to be taken off the road? Is that the reaction of a sane and rational society?
Look, I have no particular dog in this fight. I don’t own part of a duck boat company. I took the tour once and enjoyed it. I share the road with the vehicles the way everybody else does. I’ve enjoyed all nine championship parades we’ve witnessed in the last 15 years. Beyond that, if the industry was wiped outlawed tomorrow it wouldn’t affect my life in the slightest.
But I do have a stake in how we as a people react to things. Whenever something horrible happens and someone loses their life, we feel bad about it. And that’s a good thing. It’s what separates us from a colony of ants. But then we feel it’s necessary to do something about it. Anything. Even if it’s a gross and unnecessary overreaction, like declaring all duck boats are death traps and must be banned like they’re assault rifles with wheels.
I don’t know what the safety record is with the things. I know reports are that the driver had a bunch of speeding tickets, though no one can say that he got them while driving for duck boat. But I do know that there isn’t some horrendous track record of them wreaking havoc in the streets and causing all sorts of mayhem. But the way the news cycle is now, by the end of the week it’ll sound like that. It’s going to be like that time a Domino’s Pizza driver was involved in a fatal crash and we had a national debate about whether the “30 minutes or less” guarantee was destroying America.
There are literally a dozen or more duck boats driving around every major city every moment of every day. There will be accidents. Just like there are with ambulances, Toyotas, ice cream trucks, minivans and, yes, scooters. And if we decide that we have to react to every fatality by banning the vehicle involved, it’s going to get very quiet out there.
Again, I can’t stress enough my condolences to the loved ones of the woman who was killed. And if there’s some way to make the duck boats safer, then by all means, I’m on board. But outlawing them because of this is insanity.
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