The tragic deaths of four people, with eight more hospitalized, because of a vehicle crash at Lynnway Auto Auction outside Boston should be a wake-up call to the industry.
Auctions, like factories, can be dangerous places. Hundreds if not thousands of vehicles are moving rapid-fire through multiple lanes, as crowds of attendees seek to get as close to the vehicles as possible to inspect them before bidding. It's an accident site waiting to happen.
But the risk can be reduced. Just as factories have found ways to reduce injuries through training, redirecting workflows, clear labeling of dangerous areas and fencing that keeps unauthorized personnel away from moving equipment, auctions can take steps to dramatically reduce the chance of injuries and worse.
Indeed, in 2015, the National Auto Auction Association, of which Lynnway is a member, launched a campaign to have auction personnel trained in ways to improve safety on the job. NAAA partnered with KAR Auction Services Inc. to use an educational program developed by KAR unit ADESA. NAAA provides the program to association members at no charge.
One simple step could have saved lives at Lynnway. According to at least one witness, when a Jeep Grand Cherokee suddenly accelerated, the driver appeared to steer away from other vehicles. That led to the vehicle hitting bystanders and plowing through a wall. Auction drivers should be instructed that if their vehicle surges forward, they should aim for the vehicle in front. Better to damage the inventory than to kill someone.
NAAA's immediate reaction to the May 3 crash was to decline to comment on the record. That was a mistake. This is what parents call a teachable moment. The association, and all auctions, should seize the opportunity by vowing to take all steps possible to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy and to step up efforts to improve safety in the lanes.