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Chemistry Division Employee Takes Scientific Safety On The Road

Khalil Spencer demonstrating good bicycle safety and etiquette.

Over 40,000 people a year are killed in traffic-related accidents. Could that number be reduced using principles learned from radiation protection? Yes, says nuclear facility worker and traffic safety activist Khalil Spencer.

Spencer’s idea of applying the radiation protection principle of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) to traffic safety captured the interest of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW) organization. His presentation proposal was selected from over 200 others for the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference that the NCBW organizes. This year’s national conference will take place in September in Madison, Wisconsin.

The principal of ALARA has been used effectively for years in reducing exposure and risk in radiation protection, and Spencer suggests that transportation safety can viewed similarly to safety in other complex systems such as high-risk industries (chemical plants, nuclear power plants, nuclear installations) or regulated transportation systems (airlines, trucking). ALARA as applied to traffic safety is not adversarial (not “anti-car”) but instead requires everyone (drivers, bicyclists, walkers) to analyze and mitigate the risks imposed by operating vehicles. He says that transportation, like work in a plant, factory, or any other site, is a shared endeavor where the safety of one is predicated on the safe behavior of all. ALARA requires all users to maintain high levels of competence and “sign on” to a safety culture that assumes that all accidents and injuries, if not completely avoidable, can be mitigated to drastically reduced rates approaching zero.

Khalil Spencer is a staff member with Chemistry Division’s Actinide Analytical Chemistry group and an avid bicyclist and traffic safety activist. He is a board member of the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, Chair of the Transportation Board of Los Alamos County, New Mexico, and a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor.

More NCBW  and its mission (http://www.bikewalk.org/index.php)
More on ALARA from Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alara)

Photos by LeRoy N. Sanchez, LANL Public Affairs.

5/5/06, jes

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