On the radio the other day I heard a fire chief talking about the difference smoke detectors have made in deaths by fire in this country. Before their widespread use the death toll stood at about 30,000 (about 1% of the current population). With the number in place now,that number has dropped to 3,000 annually (or .1% of the population). I think this is an incredible change, even though one death by fire is too many. With more detectors in place, the death toll would drop to 1500 deaths a year. (Note to self: continue to replace batteries in detectors every six months.)
These statistics got me to thinking about what works well in our society or has improved over the years. At the top of the list would have to be seat belts and air bags. Yet I can remember people in particular resisting the use of belts, saying they would prefer to be thrown from the car in the event of an accident. Uh, don't think so. A federal study noted that "Studies of accident outcomes suggest that fatality rates among car occupants are reduced by between 30 and 50 per cent if seat belts are worn. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that death risks for a driver wearing a lap-shoulder seat belt are reducing by 48 per cent. The same study indicated that in 2007, an estimated 15 147 lives were saved by seat belts in the United States and that, if seat belt use were increased to 100 per cent an additional 5024 lives would have been saved.[www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811206.pdf]" Presently about 85% of drivers use seat belts. With their use, fatalities from car accidents were 37,000 in 2008. I can remember when there were 50,000 deaths per year with fewer miles being driven. Seat belts (and air bags) work.
Zippers are something else that has improved over the years and work well now. If you are of a certain age, you probably remember the difficulty of starting a zipper or worse yet, one getting stuck before it reached the end of its track. Sometimes I think I spent half my life in elementary school fooling with stuck zippers. I usually would end up pulling my coat over my head and getting stuck because the opening wasn't quite big enough. I never learned from this and so I am grateful that zippers almost never stick any more. Thank you, Talon Company, for this improvement.
As irritating as cell phones can be, they certainly are useful. If we had teenagers now, I know I would feel a lot better about their safety and whereabouts knowing they had a way to call. It seems everyone has one, and if we'd just learn where and when to use them, what a wonderful world it would be. Actually, telephones in general have improved vastly. Many of you can probably remember when a long distance call had to be set up with an operator, at a prohibitively high cost. Now we can call around the world for not very much. When we went to Europe, I notified our carrier and that was it. The phone worked in Germany and France. While I didn't use it for calls (fairly expensive) I did use it to text Amy who was holding down the fort at home. (That's an odd expression, isn't it? How do you hold down a fort? It holds itself down, thanks to gravity.)
I also think pharmacies are amazing. Whatever the doctor prescribes, the pharmacy has it or if they don't, they can get it the next day. I asked Larry Morrison of Manassas Pharmacy how he kept what was called for is stock. He said he is familiar with what the doctors in the area prescribe and can order accordingly. Still pretty cool.
Then there's next-day shipping. Through a system of airline connections, merchants can have goods delivered to your house the next day or the day after. Books have been written about Fed Ex and UPS, but suffice it to say the system works and works well. Then there's my favorite e-tailer, Amazon.com. What an amazing "store" that is. And for a relatively small yearly fee, I can have "free" second day delivery. Wow!
My last item that works well is pizza places. Order up a pizza, go get it or have it delivered and you're experiencing gastronomic delight in a matter of minutes. I know, they're not like Momma made, but my momma wasn't Italian anyhow.
These are my nominees for things that work well. It makes me happy just thinking about them. I would bet you can come up with a list of your own.