Death by Car

capitalism's drive to carmageddon: news & comments

When an “A” Earns an “F”

nhtsakids The National Highway Traffic Death Safety Administration says to U.S. parents, on the website where the image at left resides, that:

Traffic incidents continue to be a leading cause of injury and death for children.

A? A? A?

Consider, first of all, that the leading killer of children in the United States is birth defects, i.e. problems deriving from before a child is born.

Now, take a look at the basic, uncomplicated facts about events after the sperm hits the egg.

As has long been true, automobile collisions (“incidents” in the NHTSA’s delicate formulation) are THE clear #1 killer of American children who weren’t doomed at conception.

And, BTW, why in the world is this so-called safety gesture campaign using trains for mascots?

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“Safety Issues”

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In a statement, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland stressed vigilance: “Even as we celebrate [yes, he said "celebrate"] the progress we’ve made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.”

“The safety issues” of which Administrator Strickland speaks? “Those” would be the automobile itself, would “they” not?

As for “the progress we’ve made in recent years,” that is otherwise known as the Great Recession.

Look for a huge spike in U.S. traffic deaths in 2012. Should be another lesson in Big Brotherism when they make that jump official.

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Another Subsidy

media-car When capitalists and their minions work to undermine public transportation and/or cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, they invariably talk about public subsidies to those lifelines. It ought to be hilarious, given the scale and range of ways the public underwrites the supposedly “private” automobile.

The latest development on that latter front is the National Highway Traffic Subsidy Safety Administration’s announcement that it will be undertaking vehicle design research on an urgent basis. Per Automotive News:

DETROIT — A computer-driven car may not be commercially viable for at least another decade, but federal regulators are taking it seriously.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a research project to figure out what sort of cockpit controls would be appropriate for a human motorist in a computer-driven vehicle.

Tim Johnson, NHTSA’s director of crash avoidance and electronic controls research, said the agency would conduct the $1.75 million research project with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

The researchers want to design controls that would enable a motorist to let the computer do the driving, then take over safely if the computer is flummoxed by an unexpected event.

“That is the work we are starting up right now,” Johnson said here Tuesday, Oct. 16, during the SAE Convergence 2012 conference sponsored by SAE International. “We are putting a high priority on this. We are trying to figure this out.”

Why is robo-car research such a high priority, you might wonder. It seems like — and might actually be — a pipedream.

The answer lies in photo at right above. Capitalists would love nothing more than to eventually free up people riding in automobiles to go ahead and participate as fully in mass media experiences while in-car as they do in-home. That would be a marketing bonanza, in a market-totalitarian society in which commuting time remains, along with sleep and paid work, a last, stubborn frontier.

Is it the role of the nation’s main transportation safety agency to be doing corporate capitalists’ exploratory research for them, especially in this area? Conversely, can you imagine the outcry if it started conducting product development research to advance the design and appeal of, say, light-rail trains?

Our grandchildren will be very amused by our present answers to that seemingly obvious questions.

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Automotive Deaths Since 9/11/2001

ossuary From 1/1/2002 through 12/31/2011, National Highway Traffic Safety [sic] Administration statistics show that 392,621 people were killed by motor vehicle collisions in the United States. So, that’s about 100 9/11s. (And it does not count those who died from automotive air pollution and physical deconditioning.)

The all-time death toll from car crashes, going back to 1899? 3,547,113.

Sources: Here and here.

The news reporting on this topic? Such as it is, it’s all just a series of terrific news, especially now that the deaths-per-miles trick has been swallowed and adopted by the corporate press. (See the typical packaging of the story in the second link above.)

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Good News!

ossuary It’s that time of the year again — the day the Orwellianly-named National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announces its official count of the number of people who died in U.S. automotive collisions last calendar year.

As always, the news this year is good: In 2010, only 32,885 people were killed in car crashes! Isn’t that heart-warming?

How is this good news, you ask? What would we be saying if 2,740 among us were dying each month in war, terrorism, or some other kind of accident? Would those deaths ever be reported as happily reduced? Or would the absolute number be portrayed as a scandal, a dire emergency, or an outrage?

Would we tolerate a governmental agency supposedly charged with reducing the deaths instead playing logical tricks with the numbers — say by reporting that, while a war was killing 2,740 people a month, there were fewer deaths per enemy bullet fired? No? Then why is the NHTSA’s habit of reporting automotive crash deaths as a number per mile driven — as if what matters is the risk per distance, rather that the risk per day — not taken as its own outrage?

The answer, of course, is that because cars-first transportation is the lifeblood of corporate capitalism, its inherent dangers simply must be packaged in a favorable light, the millions of dead be damned.

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Curioser and Curioser

volt_unsafe So, here is a new revelation about the Chevy Volt battery fires:

The company [GM] is notified of any crashes through its OnStar safety system, and it dispatches a team to drain the batteries within 48 hours. GM said NHTSA didn’t drain the battery packs of energy after the tests, but the automaker acknowledged that it hadn’t told the agency of its procedures back in June when the first fire occurred.

Implications:

1) GM almost certainly knew these fires would be happening. Otherwise, why would the Drain Teams exist?

2) The Volt has never been a serious proposition. Think about it: How realistic is it to imagine the smooth operation of Drain Teams, if the Volt had actually been a genuine product, rather than mere haloware supporting the continued sales of Silverado pickups? If there were a million Volts out there, rather than 6,000, how expensive would it be for GM to be hiring and managing the hundreds of requisite Drain Teams?

3) There has almost certainly been collusion between GM and the NHTSA to delay release of the news of this issue. The NHTSA’s fire happened in June. Its investigation was acknowledged in late November. What possible reason could explain that gap, other than the obvious one — that the NHTSA sees its mission as assisting car capitalists?

Will any of this corruption have an effect on public policy? Not a chance. Cars are the lifeblood of “our” economy, after all.

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