Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Late Night Rant, Smashing On The Keyboard My Gut Feelings About Traffic Safety In America.

40,000 Americans die bloody deaths every year on the road, more than double the causalities of the worst year of the Vietnam War and nearly triple the annual number killed in what we classify as murder. Some of these deaths are the lone incident of a driver veering off the road, but sometimes others are brought to the grave with them. The biggest killer of our children and all Americans under the age of 30 is the automobile crash. The modern transportation network, one of big metal boxes operated by people who did a few basic tests, is a system entirely of our own construct. So as a civilization we are solely responsible for the consequences of this system.

There is no act of God to blame this problem on. This is not the weather, this is not a hurricane, a tornado, or an earthquake, this is a disaster we have crafted entirely of our own, and rationalize through theories of economics, politics, and media presentation. This not far away news in a third world nation, this is in the world’s wealthiest nation. This is not the act of isolated insanity and malicious intent as in the serial killer or murderer with a knife or gun, this is the status quo of a system that accepts frequent deaths of innocent people as collateral damage for getting to work, buying groceries and shopping at the mall. The problem is far beyond the influence of alcohol, 80% of fatal crashes involve sober drivers. Children have died in clearly visible and marked crosswalks on the way to school because of a parent rushing another child to school in their urban sport utility vehicle.

This does not have to be the case. There are other places with a high quality of life and successful economies without nearly as much needless bloodshed simply moving goods, people and services. We must end the worship and singular focus on the self-piloted speeding automobile. Societies with more diversified transportation options, better public transit, better pedestrian access, more bicycle networks, higher standards for driver testing, and slower automobile speeds in city centers, have significantly lower per capita deaths in their daily goings of business, and live healthier and more active lives. These economies are also at less risk for the shocks of world fuel supply, and more capable of moving masses of people during spikes in travel demand thanks to the higher capacity and efficiency of non-automobile systems.

We must not be disheartened by statistics or distracted by the media circus. The biggest threat to our national security is not the outside terrorist, but is from within, our biggest enemy is us, and we can all do something about it. If it is our goal to improve the safety of ourselves, and our future generations, than the eyes of our society should not be on the shoes of passengers at airports, they should be on the streets, giving witness to our daily massacre.


Festoonic said...

Oh, I certainly do understand. Automobiles are a menace to personal safety, community killers, and the single largest contributor to climate change. Drivers -- even your mom and dad and your best friend and me -- are thugs, if we define thuggishness by the damage we do. But 'merkins will give up their cars only when they no longer can afford gas to fuel them. That day is coming. In the meantime, ride carefully.

Chewie said...

Great post.

I often think about how we take 9/11 very seriously compared to collisions. Granted, it was a terrible tragedy where 3,000 people died, but what is that compared to 40,000 dead PER YEAR?

Where's the war on collisions?