The subject of traffic, considered by Richard K. Rein in his column last week on Tom Vanderbilt’s new book, entitled “Traffic — Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us),” hit a nerve with several readers. One took sharp exception to Vanderbilt’s suggestion (and Rein’s enthusiastic endorsement) that when confronted with a lane closing on the interstate we should stay in the lane to be closed until the bitter end and then throw ourselves at the mercy of the other lane and cut in.

The letter arrived just as this issue was going to the printer but it came complete with a song about traffic — we will set some room aside in next week’s issue.

We also heard from science writer and U.S. 1 contributor Edward Tenner, who noted that when he was writing “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences,” he considered a chapter on “The Road,” but abandoned the idea when he realized the subject really deserved a book of its own. “I don’t know if Vanderbilt mentions this,” Tenner noted, “but according to psychological studies of happiness, people report their lowest ‘subjective well-being’ when 1.) commuting, and 2.) meeting with their boss.”

Since our boss was still on the road as this paper was being put to bed we felt pretty good ourselves.

To the Editor:

Medical Errors

Over 98,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical errors. A plane crash would need to occur every day in the United States for an entire year to even come close to the preventable medical error death toll.

More than 150 people were tragically killed August 20 when an airliner swerved off the runway and crashed at Madrid Barajas Airport. Can you imagine the FAA or the general public tolerating a daily tragedy of this magnitude?

When an airplane crashes, we know when, where, and most times why the plane crashed. Why isn’t the same information available about preventable medical errors in our health facilities?

The AARP urges Health Commissioner Heather Howard to reveal medical error data by health care facility. New Jerseyans have the right to know which hospitals are the safest so they can make educated health care choices. Public disclosure will give hospitals a strong incentive to redouble their efforts to improve care, implement safety processes, and prevent errors.

Government leaders have 98,000 reasons to work towards better health care transparency in our great nation. It is time for New Jersey to lead the charge and disclose hospital-specific error data to protect our health consumers.

Marilyn Askin

AARP New Jersey

Chief Legislative Advocate

For more on the issue of medical errors, see the Interchange column on page 5 of this issue.

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