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33,883. 32,885. 32,367. 34,080. Those are a list of the number of deaths for the years 2009 through 2012, respectively, all caused by the same weapon. But this is weapon is not a gun: It is a motor vehicle.

Now, my question is: Why isn't this a major political issue? Debates are fierce regarding how to stem the tide of gun violence. But as bad as a problem as it is,* the motor vehicle fatality rate has consistently eclipsed the murder rate in the United States. Over 30,000 Americans die every year, yet this rarely enters political discussions? Why is this?

* Does not include suicide rates. Combined with those, murders + suicides with guns tend to be about the same as motor vehicle deaths.

I think we need to add this to our list of issues to address. I think we need to be more aware that just as human lives are being destroyed at the barrel of a gun, they are also being destroyed behind the wheel. Follow me below the fold for a brief discussion about what the particular causes are, and an introduction potential remedies that individuals and communities could consider. More than anything, though, I hope that this conversation will start now and end no time soon.

1. Disconnect between driving habits and regulations.

In most if not all states, the following are standard rules of the road:

-Turn on your headlights when it is raining.
-Do not tailgate.
-Signal all lane changes and turns well in advance.
-Red means stop (and stay stopped).
-For all intents and purposes, you have zero right-of-way when at a yield sign or turning right on red.

And so forth. I think that most of these should be common-sense rules, yet to varying degrees, many people choose not to obey them. People tend to justify these actions according to all sorts of excuses--"Everyone else does it," "I was in a hurry," "It's an arbitrary speed limit, anyway"--etc. Speaking of which...

2. Speed limits.

This one is a complex issue. Here in the States, speed limits vary, but they generally fall in the following ranges:

* 20-30 mph for residential neighborhoods
* 30-45 elsewhere in town
* 55-65 for rural highways (not freeways)
* 70-75 for rural freeways (mostly, but not entirely, Interstates)
(Please note that these are midranges; some locales have them significantly higher or lower.)

Contrast that with mainland Europe, which typically has:
* 50 kph (31 mph) in town, not just in neighborhoods (which can be as low as 30 kmh/19 mph)
* 80-90 kph (50-56 mph) on rural, highways (not freeways)
* 130 kph (81 mph) on rural freeways.

It's worth noting that European towns and cities tend be denser, and most of the streets were laid out centuries before urban planning. And suburban sprawl is not nearly as big a deal. But those constraints aside, it seems as if our speed limits are generally higher everywhere except on rural freeways.

Why do I point all this out? Because allegations commonly exist that speed limits are "arbitrarily chosen." Are they? I don't know. But it sure seems odd that "arbitrarily chosen" speed limits would be higher than those of many other industrialized nations. The rural freeway speeds, however, seem to be exceptions. It's interesting that nearly every state in the Union has lower Interstate speed limits than their counterparts do in Europe. But they are increasing--several states, such as Illinois and Ohio, have raised their maximum limits from 65 to 70. Maine and Louisiana have gone up to 75. And one rural tollway in Texas has a speed limit of 85 miles per hour!

3. Drunk driving.

Unlike the ambiguity associated with higher or lower speed limits, the correlation here is very clear: Drunk driving is inherently dangerous. It still ranks as one of the single greatest causes of fatalities on the road today. Why is it a problem? Perhaps we have simply tolerated it on the face of "it's just a couple drinks, they can't hurt me" despite evidence that even a small amount of alcohol in the system can impair judgment.

So what are we to do?

The first step to solving any problem is admitting that the problem exists. And we have done that here. Then we need to begin treating this as a matter as a one that we must approach as both individuals and as a society. We must all ask ourselves the same questions: What specifically am I doing to enable the problem? What specifically should I start doing to be a better, defensive driver?

We also need to avoid confusing common-sense regulations with allegations of tyranny that would make even some Tea Partiers laugh. In particular, we need to be very careful with the use of the phrase "speed trap." If officers are not ticketing people driving below the speed limit for driving too fast, then it's not a speed trap: it's just a hassle to drive slower than you'd like. A realistic speed trap implies that officers pull people over just because they felt like it, often disproportionately targeting disenfranchised people in the process. You got a ticket for going 40 in a 35? Sorry, bub, that's not a speed trap. That's strict enforcement of a clear rule that applies to everyone using that road.

The next is to agree to some common-sense rules. I feel that a great place to start might be to have open conversations about the merits of speed limits. What should determine a speed limit? Are the existing criteria reasonably sound, or do they need significant overhaul? Do we really need stop signs at so many intersections, or would yield signs suffice? All these and many other questions need to be raised.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Really? You want to go there? (4+ / 0-)

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:09:56 PM PDT

  •  In 20 years traffic fatalities will fall to nearly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    88kathy, Sharon Wraight

    zero without any new laws. Well, except for the ones that mandate computers drive the cars instead of people. Yes, the numbers of dead are a tragedy but the politic will and energy it would take to fix them doesn't exist and will be made moot by the advance of technology. Pick your battles wisely, this one doesn't seem to be worth fighting.

    Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

    by ontheleftcoast on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:10:35 PM PDT

    •  You have a point about the political will (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Risen Tree

      but your rosy predictions of flawless safety from computerized vehicle operation sound pretty pie-in-the-sky, for any number of reasons.  

      For instance, even if "driverless" cars become far more sophisticated than they are now, how many people will be able to afford them?  How are you going to get all the old non-smart vehicles off the road?  Are people really going to be prevented from over-ridin or disableing the smart features when they want to do the stupid things they've always done?  And so on.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:31:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was going to say, "nearly zero" but that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elwood Dowd

        didn't make the point I was going for. Humans are going to be replaced in many ways and relatively quickly. For example, we'll see robotic driving in common usage by the end of this decade and mandatory usage will follow pretty quickly. Sure, there will be some holdouts but once the traffic death start dropping 20%, 50% or more, in states without human drivers it won't take long for it to become mandatory. As for cost I'm relying on some variation on Moore's Law to kick in. Anything costing $10,000 today will cost $2 (or less) in 20 years.

        Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

        by ontheleftcoast on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:42:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure I buy it, but (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ontheleftcoast, Kevskos, DaNang65

          I'll add a couple of other things in support.

          When 50% (for example) of the cars on the roads are automated, the other 50% will be less likely to be involved in fatalities.  The other cars will be better at avoidance.

          And it won't be our democratically-elected representatives who make the final call. It will be the insurance companies, who will start charging some pretty outrageous premiums for holdout jalopies.

          (But I'm still not convinced.)

          •  Yeah, self-driving insurance will be unaffordable (0+ / 0-)

            for all but the 0.01%. That's probably what will be the death knell for human driving.

            Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

            by ontheleftcoast on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:50:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The other side of the argument - (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Creosote, bubbajim

              1. All it will take is one fatal accident caused by a driverless car, to set the whole thing back a decade or two.

              2. Car prices don't follow Moore's law, historically.

              3. The average age of cars on the road today is about 11 years.  I remember when a ten-year-old car was worth a news story about the obsessive owner!  An 11-year replacement cycle makes for very slow transitions.

              •  Car prices don't but the electronics sure do (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Elwood Dowd, Kevskos

                I've worked with the automotive computer tech. It's amazing how much tech is crammed into a car nowadays. And, yes, the prices don't follow the same curves as other consumer electronics but it's still pretty amazing. There are really only a couple of things needed for computer driven cars. It boils down to sensors, acceleration/braking, steering. The sensors are becoming dirt cheap, that cost won't be a barrier. Many newer cars are now "brake by wire" which allows computer controlled braking, acceleration is already there with cruise control. Steering is the last piece but again, we're seeing steering follow the path of braking. It will happen pretty quickly, the transition to robot driving. I'm not sure what the final dynamics of it will be but it will happen faster than we think. Especially if there's a way for the 0.01% to suck money out our pockets by doing it.

                Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

                by ontheleftcoast on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:06:52 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Yep. LOTS of old cars on the road today. (0+ / 0-)

                And why not? My 20 year old Intrepid is adequate. When you consider the amount of pollution created by the making and disposing of a car compared to that of merely driving one, long use cycles are best.

                (Ten year old cars as oddities? When? My dad had a '37 Ford in college (1951). Looked like a new car in photos. Our family car in 1966 was a  '47 Plymouth. You must live in the rustbelt. I remember visiting family in Michigan in the '70's, and their "winter cars" had no outer sheet metal below the beltline. Of course, they were about ten years old!)

                The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it. -Ezra Klein

                by bubbajim on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 08:52:32 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  "self-driving" just ain't gonna happen where I liv (0+ / 0-)

              Googlemaps still thinks my driveway is a "road", whereas people who drive up it by mistake think it's a logging road to nowhere.
                 And we have enough trouble making anti-lock brakes behave on the ice, never mind any more driving "help" thanks.

              We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

              by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 06:35:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Very futuristic. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kevskos, Risen Tree

          In the meantime, I'm disgusted that the vast majority of vehicles currently sold get WORSE fuel efficiency than my dusty 20-year-old Toyotas.  

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:53:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  This is computer technology (0+ / 0-)

        It gets cheaper every year. Your car's engine is run by computer now (fuel injection, air intake, spark timing…). They said the same thing about all of the other safety and pollution systems now in common use being unaffordable.

        We get old vehicles off the road the same way we always have. They wear out.

        I do not pretend to know how the politics will play out on an override mechanism. Very few people will be that stupid, compared with the numbers that will benefit from automated steering and braking. There certainly will be some, like the anti-vaxxers who currently endanger themselves and others.

        Why is cursing the darkness more attractive to you than lighting a candle, or better still teaching people how to make their own?

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 06:43:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The premise is way off. (13+ / 0-)

    Traffic deaths HAVE received plenty of political attention - everything from tougher penalties for DUI, to safer cars, to lower speed limits.

    And it has worked: link.

  •  The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. (9+ / 0-)

    What are you talking about, silent?

    Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

    by 88kathy on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:17:46 PM PDT

    •  Is there good data, on car fatalities as a % of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      i saw an old tree today

      hours spent in a car (per year)? And comparable data on gun fatalities as a % of hours spent holding a gun (per year)?

      It would be interesting to see the comparison.

      The # of deaths is roughly the same (including homicides + suicides + unintentional discharges).

      But hours in a car I'm guessing is a lot more -- perhaps by an order of magnitude?

      For most Americans, this includes driving (or being driven) back and forth to work 5 days/week, and/or driving kids to school or their social events, driving out for for drinks or dinner, driving for groceries, driving on trips, driving on errands, driving to visit friends, etc.

      I see various estimates: 540 hours/year in 2000 but growing, 600 hours/year, 2.5 hours/day = 910 hours/year, 18.5 hours/week = 962 hours/year (the latter source is Arbitron 2009 National In-Car Study), etc.

      Now: how many hours/year does the average American have their hand on a gun?  I haven't seen reliable data on this.

      •  it could probably be constructed* (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sharon Wraight, 88kathy

        but the comparison itself is false, a priori

        we could also compare

        banana consumption and divorce (favorite example of one of my college professors)

        post-operative deaths and .. voting behavior

        participation in religious ceremony and, say, detergent preferences

        *accurately and scientifically, please, otherwise don't tempt them ☺

  •  A couple has a fight. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, Sharon Wraight

    So one of them goes outside to get the car, drives through the house and chases and finally mashes the other against the brick fireplace.  So let's regulate killer cars more like guns.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:24:06 PM PDT

  •  If you have any ideas how we can (3+ / 0-)

    reduce the death and injuries , I'm all ears .

    Have you seen the outside airbag ?
    An airbag to help people outside the car ?

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:47:30 PM PDT

  •  Out here in the intermountain west (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skohayes, Risen Tree

    80 mph on the Interstates is a de facto speed limit.
    The distances out here are vast and our Interstates have much less rural traffic than in other areas.

    Utah has already upped parts of I-15 to 80, and Idaho is considering doing the same on parts of several Interstates. Montana, which has always been permissive with fast driving, will probably follow.

    Oregon's Interstate speed limit is 65. That's probably good for the Portland metro and along the coast, but E. Oregon could have the limit raised, and it should. 65 is too slow.

    I think raising Interstate speed limits should be based on common sense. The California roads get so much more traffic that I don't think raising the limits there make any sense, for example, but does in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and much of the plains states as it does here.

    With the costs of fuel, I think drivers will self-regulate. Those who want to conserve will drive slower, and those who are more comfortable at lower speeds will drive slower as well.

    Given the weather extremes out here, everyone uses common sense. Traveling slowly is always faster than being stuck at the side of the road in bad weather.

    Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

    by Idaho07 on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:03:36 PM PDT

  •  I live in Georgia too. The drivers here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree

    are terrible! And the new-found fascination with traffic circles, a.k.a. round-a-bouts isn't helping.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:05:33 PM PDT

  •  American Police waste waaay too much time (2+ / 0-)

    enforcing speed limits. You rarely see that kind obsession with speed limit enforcement in other countries.

    Its a revenue raising gimmick for municipalities, as are their automated Right Turn Cameras.    

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:10:41 PM PDT

    •  wasting time or garnering profits? My Dad got (0+ / 0-)

      caught in a leap-frog sting enforcing the traffic law "you must move all the way over to the far lane when there are emergency vehicles at the side of the road." He moved over, out of the way, but not far enough, apparently, to avoid $165.00 ticket. The state cops were watching people and radioing ahead and taking turns making sure that they were "beside the road" to see if people were complying.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 06:46:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You rarely see that obsession with speed limit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sharon Wraight

      " other countries"

      Having lived in many countries overseas, I can't agree.

      One of the 2 times I've been stopped was 1. overseas where the speed limit's lower to begin with, and they wish to keep it that way, thanks very much, and 2. the cop said he'd done a stint in LA and sort of pitied us.

      So I don't know where you're pulling your opinion from .... and I don't care, but for Christs's sake ...

  •  California law demands speed limits based upon... (0+ / 0-) studies, "arbitrary" speed limits have been a cause for traffic violations being dismissed or convictions reversed.

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:11:49 PM PDT

  •  It would be better if you didn't (0+ / 0-)

    start with a reference to guns. It's a standard fallacy brought by those arguing for fewer gun regulations.

    You're also ignoring pedestrians, something most drivers do. When approaching a (marked OR UNMARKED) crosswalk, especially when making a turn, look at its entire length. If a pedestrian is in the crosswalk (laws may differ on whether they need to have stepped off the curb), stop to let them cross. In addition to the direct effect of not hitting someone, this has the indirect effect of making crossing at an intersection safer than dashing across midblock. The latter is often safer with current driving habits, as you only need to look for potential conflicts in one direction.

    And yes, always stop before the crosswalk when turning right on red. If you don't and get a camera ticket, it's your own damn fault.

    warning: snark probably above

    by NE2 on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:32:19 PM PDT

    •  Agreed with your sentiment about pedestrians. (0+ / 0-)

      Both drivers and pedestrians have broken the law many, many times. Sometimes the problem is simply a lack of crosswalks.

      Dude, don't get riled up about the gun control teaser comparison. I'll save that for another post.

  •  Meanwhile, California stupidity trundles on... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree

    California limits the speed of "towed vehicles" and trucks with three axles or more, to 55 mph.

    This is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS, and it's a cause of tremendous mischief and unintended consequences.

    In most other states that I've been in, trucks aren't given a special speed limit, tho a few limit truck speed at night or poor wx conditions.

    In the east, the I-95 corridor is a total frenzy compared to I-5 and Route 99 in the central valley, I-95 is mostly three and four lanes from DC to Philly, trucks are required to stay out of the faster lanes, but they are allowed to travel at the same speed as the rest of the traffic, usually 65 or 70 mph.

    Meanwhile, the idiots in CA have three major north-south routes, completely jammed with trucks, and they are legally required to travel at 55 mph, while the autos buzz by at 70 (if they're geezers-in-training like me who just dial in the speed limit on the cruise-control) or, more likely, 75-80 with a handful of loons going 90 or more.

    I-5 is a route that used leftover land after the Valley was well-developed, consequently it travels on the western side of the Valley where the terrain is very rolly, rather than on the flat valley floor.  This causes trucks to slow substantially, while the idiot drivers of cars continue to drive as fast as they can get away with, doing crazy shit along the way, like swooshing past a big truck on the right side at 90 as the truck driver attempts to get back into the right lane.

    Much of this idiocy can be laid directly at the feet of the speed limit disparity which really needs to be changed.

    I don't understand how this arbitrary speed limit for trucks can be justified, in light of the fact that California speed limits are required to be set for a specific demonstrable reason and cannot be set arbitrarily.  What could be more arbitrary than "55 in a 70 zone?"

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:38:03 PM PDT

    •  Wow, that's insane. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Because it is not just speed per se, but speed differential, that often causes wrecks. When vehicles are traveling at very different speeds, particularly when weaving and out of traffic, the risk of collisions greatly increases.

  •  More California stupidity... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree

    Drivers in California generally handle expressways/freeways/limited access highways a little better than drivers in other states, they are pretty good at being able to drive in something like a formation while the whole group of cars totally filling the freeway blasts along at something like the speed limit, they mostly don't arbitrarily and unpredictably change lanes, they mostly know where they 're going in the maze of freeways so they don't try to swerve across four lanes to get to an exit, and they NEVER drive out to the end of an on-ramp and slow down to look an see if someone's coming (which idiots in New Jersey and Massachusetts do pretty regularly) but what they DO do that's pretty stupid relates to behavior in bumper-to-bumper urban drive-time freeway jam-ups...

    California has "diamond lanes" which are reserved for car-pools and Low-Emission vehicles (Prius's, Volts, Leafs, etc) and for motorcycles, and during high-impact traffic time, it's common to have four lanes totally jammed, with an empty diamond lane with an occasional car driving by.

    The problem this causes is we have idiots out here who think nothing of blasting the empty diamond lane at 70, right next a line of stopped or creeping cars.  Usually drivers with a car pool aboard find themselves running a gauntlet thru the creeping lines of traffic (fortunately most CA drivers are pretty good about letting people change lanes around them) and then they have to take their life in their hands trying to pull into the diamond lane and accelerate before being run over by some fool doing sixty in the diamond lane next to stopped traffic.

    Another related stupidity is the behavior of some motorcyclists who ride like idiots thru these same creeping bumper-to-bumper car formations.  California allows motorcyclists to "split lanes" in the situation I'm describing, a practice widely criticised and outlawed on other states, but one I approve of whole-heartedly.

    My beef with them? It's not the lane-splitting, it's HOW some of them do it, there are always a couple of idjits who insist on riding thru the lines of cars WAY TOO FAST.  

    I think the practice should continue to be allowed, but people need to be smarter about HOW they do it, they SHOULD NOT ride thru a line of traffic faster than a few miles an hour faster than the traffic is going, and if they keep up this stupid behavior, Californians are likely to start screeching for the legislature to DO SOMETHING about this practice.

    When I encounter people walking on a trail that I'm riding on my mtn bike, I never pass them faster than I would if I was jogging, seems to me the same tactic should apply to drivers/motorcyclists.

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 06:13:03 PM PDT

  •  I'm not really understanding the argument here. (3+ / 0-)

    That "cars don't kill people, drivers do" (or vice versa)?  That fewer laws would be broken if there were fewer laws?  That many/most traffic fatalities are/could be preventable?

    I looked up the highway traffic fatalities in Ohio for the year after the rural interstate speed limit was raised to 70 mph: they actually decreased by 12% versus the previous year -- something no one really saw coming.

    Now, I've seen reports that during this same period the number of accidents went up— so the decrease in fatalities could be attributed to better safety features / more modern vehicles, or it could just be happenstance. Some parts of the state went down, some went up.

    But there are plenty of agencies, organizations and individuals working every single day to make automotive travel safer.  

    Only in America can protecting children from guns be a losing political issue.

    by here4tehbeer on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 07:30:05 PM PDT

    •  More than anything, my objective (0+ / 0-)

      Is to return this issue to the importance that it deserves. Fewer laws, more laws, whatever--let's put all reasonable ideas on the table and discuss them. But for God's sake, we can't just continue to overlook this crisis to which we have acclimated ourselves.

      •  Fair enough. I guess I'm just not seeing where (2+ / 0-)

        it's being "overlooked". I would instead say that the issue has normalized to the point where significant changes in outcome are going to take increasingly extreme measures... and it's that part of the equation that makes things seem as though they're being ignored.

        Only in America can protecting children from guns be a losing political issue.

        by here4tehbeer on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 08:32:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  far from overlooked! what rubbish (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sharon Wraight

          a quick search on news dot google got 181,000 hits today

          hey do they still require

          drivers ed?
          car seats?
          seat belts?
          car seat recalls?
          impact ratings?
          side impact tests for child restraint mechanisms?
          and so much more
          tot so

          and there's more coming! I personally like 'traffic calming designs and devices

          disingenuous seems to be the order of the day, eh

          •  As I mentioned earlier, (0+ / 0-)

            Point me to any major US media webpage. Let me know how far down you have to scroll until any sort of topic concerning improving traffic safety comes up.

            The only thing I see anywhere on's front page, for instance, is the story about the Nissan airbag recall.

  •  I don't see this question enough.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree

    Though it's true that advancing technology is going to shake this subject up, both in predictable ways and less-easily-predictable ways, the OP has a good point in being dismayed by the lack of attention on society's part.

    It's also true that our auto death rate has gone down.  From about 50,000/yr 30,40,50 years ago to about 30,000/yr now.  This is even more impressive than it seems when you consider that there are a whole lot more cars and, hence, passenger miles driven than there were then. The credit for this belongs entirely to better, safer cars.  Better drivers?  Nope.....

    I suppose I could compose three or four paragraphs describing the almost vicious (and, sometimes, actually vicious) negligence we see on our roads.  But I don't see much point in that.  Everyone can see it for themselves.

    Think for a moment of the term "the rat race".  Doesn't that bring to mind your commute, more than your job?  It does so for me.  I don't want to be amongst those people.

    I have a car.  Except during the heart of winter, when there's no other choice, I only drive it about once every ten days or so.  The rest of the time I get around other ways.  It's so much healthier, body and soul.  Yet I'm the one who's regarded as peculiar.  I don't mind.  Much.  But it's indicative of the twisted relationship that our society has with the automobile.

    Though individuals will vary, of course, it seems to boil down to a very strange dichotomy in people's minds; the insistence on the one hand that the right to use their autos is absolute.  Plus the refusal, on the other, to recognize any responsibility in the use of that auto.  They do not want their use of the car curtailed, yet they see no need to actually learn how to use their car in a cooperative manner.  Nor, even, to learn from past mistakes behind the wheel and to give any real consideration to the safety of others.

    It's a tough nut to crack.  Personally, I don't think there will be any improvement until some outside force actually forces less use of the automobile.  High fuel prices are one possibility.  Or the sheer rise in numbers of cars on inadequate roads causing gridlock everywhere, which actually seems more likely.

    Large numbers of people actually reflecting on the issue and resolving to do better seems not very likely at all.  But the diarist is perfectly correct in asking us to do so.

  •  There is an element here that motor vehicle use (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree, ban nock

    shares with gun use.
    The attitude of the users. A human being in a car is a different being than a human being standing on the street. They are more agressive, more inclined to engage in risky power relations, etc. Their car becomes part of them.
    Another problem is that many humans do not consciously realize that they are bags of water and that a car traveling at moderate speed may very well squish them like a bug before they have time to react.
    I say this as someone who has been struck by a car.

    We've become more aware over the decades, but there's more road rage and reports of aggressive driving as traffic has worsened.

    I took a class in Pre-Columbian mezo-American culture, and many students in the class couldn't imagine how those city-states could be considered 'higher cultures' given their tendency to human sacrifice. I made the observation that our society "sacrificed" 40,000/yr (at the time)  to our great diety "the economy" and that they were particpating in a life and death lottery every time they got into a car. I pointed out how it was this way because the oil and auto companies (esp.) had brainwashed us into demanding this lifestyle and avoiding other options.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:49:04 PM PDT

    •  Mind = BLOWN (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I made the observation that our society "sacrificed" 40,000/yr (at the time)  to our great diety "the economy" and that they were particpating in a life and death lottery every time they got into a car.
      You, sir/ma'am, just made me rethink how I consider human sacrifice in a historical context. Well done.
  •  Interstate highways are generally the safest roads (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree, ban nock

    Despite the higher speed limits.

    That's because they have controlled access, wide shoulders, better lighting, and here's the big one - no intersections.

    You're much more likely to die at the corner of 4th and Main or at the intersection of State Rt 25 and Somethingsomething Road.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 07:05:46 AM PDT

  •  I recognize motor vehicles as the number one (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Risen Tree

    cause of death of children and try to teach my kids to be careful around cars. I'm surprised you didn't get more recs, I think the anti gun folks were maybe pissed you dissed their favorite whipping boy.

    Good and important post none the less.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 08:01:24 AM PDT

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