April 3, 2021

The Insanity of Restoring the Status Quo



Post by: Kali Breheny, Proposal Manager

In our ever-connected world, one event can create a domino effect with wide reaching impact. One recent incident – the Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal for six days in late March is a perfect example. For almost a week, the world was gripped by the extraordinary sight of this massive container ship that had run aground. The Ever Given, a 1,300 foot long ship (longer than three and a half football fields), weighing 200,000 tons, became wedged in the canal during high winds. Only a full investigation will reveal if human error played a role as well. As a result of the blockage, the economy suffered extraordinarily; some estimates cite as much as $60 billion (USD) in total damages from the resulting shipping delays. Thanks to a rise in tide, around-the-clock digging, and powerful tugboats, the Ever Given was freed on March 29th. Perhaps the supply chain is more fragile than we realize; news reports warned of shortages of essential goods much like the start of the pandemic should the blockage last any longer than it did. As regular movement resumes through the canal, it is important to take stock and learn from this event.  

No matter what the reason is for how the ship got stuck, the point of the matter is that it happened. The risk factors were known, but were they avoidable? A similar question can be posed for our roadways. A parallel can be drawn between the choke points of the Suez Canal and bottlenecks along our interstates and local streets, which can cause congestion and crashes. A doctor treating a blocked artery would prescribe a change in diet and behavior to treat the symptoms and alleviate the underlying problem. So too, must we make changes in order to prevent these incidents from occurring. 

It is easy to be reactive, waiting until a problem presents itself, then finding a solution. However, the best approach is a proactive one, taking certain actions to prevent something from happening before it becomes an issue. Waycare has made this standard practice – using crowdsourced data and machine learning algorithms to detect incidents before they are called into 911 or providing predictive analytics to show where crashes are likely to take place. This has allowed operators to be more strategic in where they deploy resources and enabled them to take preventative measures.  

The Suez Canal was blocked before and it will happen again. Epidemiologists are warning us now to prepare for the next pandemic. Traffic volumes are rising and traffic deaths saw an 8% increase from 2019 to 2020, the first in four years. Instead of waiting for the next disaster, we must take action now. 

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

We should not return to the status quo if it did not serve us well. We can invest in better infrastructure; secure key choke points; create redundancies and alternate routes; apply technology to identify accident-prone sites; develop contingency plans.   

Let’s thank the Ever Given for sending us a strong warning message; it must not be ignored. 


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