San Mateo limousine fire a sober reminder for the auto industry

The invigorating spring weather has finally arrived. But unfortunately, the limousine fire that killed five women this past weekend on the San Mateo bridge ruined it, especially for those of us who concern ourselves with auto safety on a daily basis. At this writing, the California Highway Patrol was still investigating the limousine fire.

Because the accident remains under investigation, not a lot can be assumed about its cause. People are naturally anxious to speculate what caused the accident and what could have been done to save the victims once the limousine caught fire; news stories about the accident on the Internet have drawn a lot of comments from readers.

This tragedy serves as an important reminder of the role the automotive aftermarket plays in protecting public safety. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact in the day-to-day struggle of running a business.

After seeing this story on the news, I did some research on auto fatalities. Fatal accidents have been declining since 1949. The decline has been fairly constant, largely on account of safety features, many of which are government mandated. Public safety awareness campaigns, such as the Car Care Council's National Car Care Aware campaign, which many automotive companies observed last month, have also played a role.

Automakers will continue to improve safety with the help of new technologies such as rear sight cameras, collision avoidance systems, autonomous braking and more. Telematics promises more effective preventive care.

At the same time, the prevalence of texting while driving presents a new challenge that has to be addressed.

There is no way to prevent accidents completely. Tragedies such as the one on the San Mateo bridge will occasionally ruin our days.

In just a few short minutes, the promising lives of five people ended in agony.

Stories like this give us cause to recognize that health and safety cannot be taken for granted. They also make us realize the work we do has a value that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.