Sunday, February 13
Did You Know That Cars Can Be Deadly?
Just as SF Cityscape recently pointed to an entry of mine about the "plainly apparent" but consistently overlooked, I would like to refer to Planning Livable Communities' entry on some hypothetical, revolutionary "transportation device that is orders of magnitude faster than walking, but when used regularly by the vast majority of Americans, consistently kills about 40,000 people/year."
It is apparent but basically ignored that this device, the automobile, is really quite deadly on the macro level, yet driving one is treated in society both as a (birth)right, not a legal privilege, and as a lifestyle, not just a means toward a lifestyle. Its safety might have improved over the years with seat belts, air bags, and other engineered improvements, but the death rate is still high, and individual drivers' lack of skill keeps it that way.
It's just an inherent part of personal transportation by automobile; the open, "free" road requires of the private drivers little of the "quality control" of public/mass transportation, in which drivers and operators' jobs depend on their skill and they must follow rigid controls on routes, scheduling, etc. Instead, private drivers are so "entitled" to self-transportation (to paraphrase loosely one of PLC's sources) that the whole established system allows them to choose safety practices of their own until they are caught by the police or until someone gets seriously hurt--which is far too late.
No cops around? Run a red light. Do a wheelie on your motorcycle. Don't yield to pedestrians. Drive over a median. Don't use turn signals. Shine your high beams into opposing traffic. Refrain from following the rules--because you can.