Cars don´t kill people!

Cars don´t kill people, people kill people, but cars sure do help, and usually in a way, which leaves the killer without apparent purpose or intent. He/she she just didn´t really drive responsibly, making cars a really dangerous piece of machinery to operate. That is a known, an mostly ignored a suppressed fact.
Today cars are as dangerous as ever, thanks to congestion they kill less in the cities, and highways are now the kill zone. Photo: bt.dk
In stead of reminding people when they get in their cars, that cars are really dangerous, we as a society, generously assisted by car and oil companies, do everything to suppress that thought. We constantly talk about how safe new cars are (mostly for the drivers), yet ignore that the more safe cars become, the more accidents they are in. Drivers compensate for the perceived increased safety, if you are unsure about the truth in this, consider how you would drive a car, if you knew the brakes were likely to not work every one in a thousand or even one in a million, would you drive more or less carefully?
The sad truth is that the main reason road kills has gone down is congestion, you just don´t get into a fatal accident driving 10 miles an hour bumper to bumper in rush hour traffic, which in most cities now is between eight in the morning and eight o´clock in the evening. 

A year ago I got on the front page of a national news website, for telling an MP in a facebook discussion, that I hoped some of his and his fellow congestion-ring warriors (that’s what they called themselves) loved ones, would be among the people dying from the pollution they promoted beyond any boundaries.  A really harsh statement I admit, but far worse are made every second on MP´s facebook pages. 

The dream, the house in the burbs and the car in the garage. Photo: Lars Barfred


Why did my comment become national news? People who promote people unlimited right to pollute by driving in their “freedom-symbols”, their cars, surely must know that one in every 15 deaths are premature and the cause of car air and noise pollution (based on current estimates from Ministry of transportation and ministry of Environment), leaving much higher numbers with airway diseases, as much as second hand smoking used to do.

 

Well they may know, and they may not have ever bothered to learn such facts. The bottom line is, it is not just an inconvenient truth, it is an unacceptable truth. If you acknowledge how dangerous cars are, you can not promote the idea of personal cars. 

You would need to explain, why your political party, for decades put the car in the centre of all infrastructure planning, why your party promoted urban sprawl and the prestigious villa, car and green front lawns (Villa, Volvo & ligusterhæk in danish) as the main objective of the good life. 

You would need to explain to half the voters, that the car they bought should only be used as little as possible, that using it is like smoking inside, that half the roads they are used to drive on is gradually being converted to light rail, heavy rail and bike paths, even so, they should expect to be taxed much more on driving that same car. 

What mainstream politician would ever dare to state such extreme views? 

 
Of course Martin Geertsen, the right wing MP and self declared “congestion ring warrior”, did the only thing he could do. He called his political party press office. An hour later I got a call from a journo from right wing Jyllands Posten, while I was doing groceries that saturday afternoon, asking me questions derived from Geertsen. 
Two hours later I received my first death threats by phone.
Nobody wants to change their habits, and least of all to whats perceived as less comfortable, less prestigious, less convenient and probably also by many as less safe. 

Even the penal system, does not dare to tell car drivers, that driving is dangerous. Even if you drive 125 km/h where 80 km/h is allowed, and you kill three children, seriously injuring a fourth and the mother, you are only charged with a number of day fines and will never see the inside of a prison cell, KILLING 3! 

There is no stronger way to show, that if you get in an accident as a driver, its not really your fault. To get prison time you have to go 100% to fast or drive under the influence. 

Driving a car 50% to fast, not paying attention to traffic (the driver referred to above is believed to have been texting) is not really considered a serious offense. 

I normally don´t promote harsh penalties, but people who are to blame of loss of lives should mandatorily see the inside of a prison, they should be scraed straight! Because car drivers need to be told, that what they are doing is really dangerous, and they must pay attention, all of the time. 

In stead of asking drivers to pay attention to traffic and driving responsibly, we allow them to navigate cars which resemble a 767 cockpit, only all the whistles and bells are for entertainment, should paying attention to traffic become to boring. 

3-5 different displays and entertainment computers, gps which can be operated while driving (WHY?) used to be the hall marks of the upper luxury class, now its included in many cars the bottom third, price wise. 


Modern car interior, the Ford Focus on the left, challenges the time the driver needs to look at the road. The Skoda Citigo, has all the instruments needed to operate a car safely, and really not much else. Photos: Ford and Skoda
The current debate on road safety in Denmark is about hate, no sorry its about right turn accidents, but there is so much hate, its hard to believe. 

Even when a ten year old girl driving perfectly according to the highway code alongside her mother, and then is abruptly killed by a right turning truck that failed to see her, in front of her shocked mother, half the people offering an opinion will claim it’s the fault of the bicyclist. 

Car drivers just can´t accept driving even a huge truck in an urban environment could be dangerous, and should be done with extreme care. No, according to many car drivers bicyclists, are at fault because they don´t observe some personal preference’s of the car driver, bicyclists are extremely reckless running red light, and standing their ground, car drivers write. In Denmark like in the most of the world you have to give way to traffic coming from your right. Car drivers think bicyclists should also give way to traffic coming from the left. 

Maybe the truth is much simpler, trucks that are too big to safely navigate in cities, should not be allowed in those same cities. When the payload is to big to be delivered one or more vans in stead, then a mandatory co-driver should make sure the angles the driver can not see himself, will be observed. 

Does this increase distribution costs? –Yes, tough luck, be happy about the savings you made the last 30 years, when you continually increased trucks size with complete disregard to the danger you forced on your distribution drivers and the bicyclists and pedestrians in our cities. 

15 years ago I played a role in this as a Sales and Distribution manager of Coca-Cola, and I do not recall any thoughts on traffic safety ever being voiced, when we discussed increasing truck size to increase distribution efficiencies. I am sure this was not unique to the Coca-Cola bottling operation. 

As if the usual 32 pallet distribution trucks are not too large to be driven in cities, Coca-Cola like to promote their brand by driving 6-axel US trucks through the city, decorated like the family home in National Lampoons Christmas vacation movie from 1989. Coca-Cola believes it builds the brand, knits the brand closer to christmas and drives incremental sales volume in the holiday season. Responsible behaviour? Should such trucks be legal in cities at all? Photo: The Coca-Cola Company
 
We did however anticipate the city of Copenhagen, would soon ban large trucks in the medieval part of the city, fearing the harm of the heavy trucks on the hundreds of years old historic buildings. The ban never came, to my knowledge the city never even actually considered it. It was just a paranoid fantasy of my boss, because he saw Coca-Cola was challenged by such bans in Spain, Italy, France and many other countries. 

Remember; no cars, no traffic deaths. Really! Cars are involved in 99% of all Traffic deaths in DK. 

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