Guns and Cars

In 2016 in the United States, a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 8,210, or 19.5 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It happens every year on a similar order.

On this day of rallies for sanity and democracy and public health, I think this literally unremarked fact is worth mentioning.

Maybe someday, we, the people, will shatter the Great Taboo on telling the truth about cars-first transportation in America. We’d better, because that core institution is speeding us to Carmageddon, whether we notice it or not.

Subsidized Oxymorons

ossuary Massive personal and collective harm are features, nut bugs, in cars-first transportation. Basing everyday locomotion on heavy, complex, independently-steered boxes traveling at high speeds is never going to become compatible with anything like maximum personal safety and overall ecological sustainability. The laws of physics are, as Billy Bragg once observed, very, very strict.

None of this prevents those who prosper from the sociopathic reign of the automobile from pushing, with the help (or at least the non-resistance) of those who should know better, the delusion that better roads and cars are somehow, someway going to be enough.

Witness the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which expresses legitimate alarm over the fact that 90 percent of the “1.25 million people killed on the world’s roads each year and another 20-50 million seriously injured” are residents of the Third World, but proposes to solve this problem by massively deepening the world’s reliance on automobiles.

According to the World Bank, what is needed in the Third World is more conventional development (“integration” in WB lingo), so that the Third World can become like the First World, where the level of “traffic safety” is, it says, just fine and dandy.

Should we somehow manage to transcend it and pass on the basis for further human progress, our grandchildren will want to laugh and vomit over such high-minded nonsense, which would be hugely obvious and repulsive in any age not utterly lobotomized by its own ruling ideas.

What’s In a Word

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Orwellianly-named (ponder the concept: “highway safety”) federal agency in charge of making sure the inherently dangerous, planet-killing technology known as the automobile keeps a viable public image, “car crashes are one of the leading killers of U.S. children age 1 to 13.” That’s the audio product. When it comes time to put the story in print, the NHTSA writes: “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old.” [emphasis added in both quotes]

In reality, of course, car crashes are the clear, no-contest #1 killer of U.S. children, even for those aged 1-13, who are not yet old enough to drive.

Why does the NHTSA pull its punches in this blatant manner? Can anybody think of a reason? Could it be that perpetuating cars-first transportation is “one of” the sociopathic behaviors our corporate overclass can’t live without?

Annals of Misreporting

car skull The East Coast Blizzard of 2016 is killing people, report the corporate media. Balderdash. By keeping people from driving their cars, the snowstorm is saving lives on a big scale, as is very occasionally almost acknowledged in self-same media.

“I think in reporting any story, journalists are taught that human life is the ultimate value,” said Joe Saltzman, professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. “So the first question we ask on any story is, what’s the death toll?”

Yes, quite so, except when the story is cars. There, the ultimate value is profits for corporate capitalists, so the basic facts are not newsworthy.

Centers for Damage Control

fox guarding henhouse This week’s howler comes from Gwen Bergen, PhD, MPH, MS, behavioral scientist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control [the DUIPNCIPC!] at the Centers for Disease Control:

“Motor vehicle crashes and related injuries are preventable.”

That of course, is not only official doctrine, but complete malarkey. No amount of safety technology is going to stop large subsets of 200,000,000+ independently steered (or remotely commanded) metals boxes traveling at high speeds on intersecting and undulating paths from colliding with one another and thereby injuring their occupants.

But even those whose careers stem from genuine worry over the appalling, undiscussed carnage of cars-first transportation can’t summon the chutzpah to face and state the plain truth that automotive travel is remarkably dangerous to the human person. Admitting this technological fact is simply and deeply verboten in our market-totalitarian society.

Instead, you get apparently sincere professional hopes pinned to utterly unexamined strings of reassuring presumptions:

“Although much has been done to help keep people safe on the road, no state has fully implemented all the interventions proven to increase the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts; reduce drinking and driving; and improve teen driver safety.”

News flash: Not only are no states going to do everything possible (which would include criminalizing cell phone use inside cars), but TCT says it again: Even if some state did everything on Dr. Bergen’s list, it would still be home to huge surpluses of preventable, inexcusable injuries and premature deaths.

The “Government Motors” ROFL

delusion Far be it from DbC to defend car capitalists, but this whole right wing attempt to smear GM as “Government Motors” because it was bailed out is quite hilarious. According to Automotive News:

Last summer, Jim Stutzman, owner of Jim Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac in Winchester, Va., lost a fleet order of 30 Silverados because the chairman of the general contracting company didn’t like GM’s government-funded bankruptcy. Stutzman says he had sold hundreds of fleet cars and trucks to the company since the late 1980s.

“He just felt like purchasing our products would have been supporting a decision that he was totally philosophically opposed to,” Stutzman said.

The company bought Ford pickups instead.

Questions for our principled general contractor:

1) What car corporation would be selling any of its products, if the public removed its willingness to provide free roadways, police services, courtroom time, and military protection of fuel sources?

2) Do you accept contracts to build things ordered by the public? Do your trucks travel to any of your job sites using free public roads? How do you sleep at night, man?

McKibben Gets a New Car

hypocrisy Jim Motavalli peddles the notion, in part for The New York Times no less, that there is such a thing as “green cars.”  He is, he says, “passionate about hybrid, hydrogen, biofuel and electric cars.” He is also pals with none other than Bill McKibben, the Don Quixote of our epoch.

McKibben, as we know, is on a tour of the nation’s colleges, trying to encourage the kids to strike a pointless pose about Big Oil, which he describes as a mere “rogue industry,” rather than part and parcel of our cars-first transportation order.

In this context, Jim Motavalli reported a highly interesting fact this week:

McKibben is on a 21-city campus tour in a biodiesel bus, speaking and raising hell. He called me from the road, shortly before taking delivery of his new Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid.

Without commenting on the harebrained joke known as biodiesel, let us ponder this very telling “delivery.” Not only is this a hugely over-rated non-revolutionary product, but accepting (and thereby endorsing) it is analogous to C. Everett Koop ordering up a case of Camel Lights after testify against cigarette corporations.

DbC now wonders whether Mr. McKibben is more than a sad enigma and an example of the limitations of endowed activism. Is he, in fact, a positive danger to the world, a beloved misleader and miseducator, a huge hypocrite?

DbC also asks: Was McKibben’s C-Max a gift from Ford?

Lash Them with Noodles!: NTSB Remains Silent on Puniness of Cell Phone Laws

grim-reaper-driving Today, the National Transportation Danger Safety Board, reacting with all the usual alacrity in response to definitive, alarming, life-and-death six-year-old research results, called upon all 50 states and the (federally disenfranchised) District of Columbia to “ban” all use of personal electronic devices by automobile drivers. Distracted driving, as that 2006 research showed, is at least as dangerous as drunk driving. The NHTSA reckons that distraction is now a factor in 10 percent of all car crashes, including the ones that harvested 33,885 lives in 2010.

Better late than never certainly applies here. (Unless, of course, you happen to be amongst those closely connected to the 15,000 people killed by distracted drivers between the time the above-mentioned research was published and now.)

But what, pray tell, does this idea of “banning” cell phone use by car-drivers actually mean? What are the penalties imposed by the existing bans, all of which gut themselves by indulging the sponsored fiction that “hands-free” devices lower the risk of PED distraction? Let’s look at that well-known pace-setter in government regulation, California:

Fines and “points.” The fine for a first offense, including penalty assessments, is $76. A second offense is $190. However, although a violation of the handheld cell phone ban is a reportable offense and will appear on your driving record, it will not count as a point. (California uses a “point system” for moving violations. If you accumulate too many points, your insurance rates increase and you may lose your privilege to drive.)

Here in Oregon, where DbC is produced, things are far harsher: The offense here is a Class D Traffic Violation, i.e. of the same seriousness as the lowest possible speeding tickets (i.e., the ones that never get written), the ones given for driving 0-10 mph above the limit. Hence, to get a single point on one’s Oregon DMV record for breaking the cell phone “ban” here, one would have to get not just ticketed for it, but convicted of it twice within 12 months.

Meanwhile, drunk driving arrests (not convictions) here bring an automatic 30-day driver’s license suspension. Convictions for first DUIIs bring further license suspensions of from 3 months to one year. DUII is also way above a Traffic Violation, statutorily speaking.  For first-timers, DUII is a Class A Misdemeanor — i.e., a criminal matter, meaning arrest, handcuffs, booking, and at least a short stay in jail. The fines at this level are ten times higher than for a Class D Traffic Violation.

Notice that, in today’s call for a “ban” on all cell phone use by drivers, the NTSB said nothing about the above double standard. So, wrist-slaps are almost certainly what it’s proposing as the backing for its requested toughening of the law.  Quite a bold move, no?  Strike that pose!

Meanwhile, we DbCers might also note another screaming double standard in this story. In her clarion call for extending the lash of the wet noodle, NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman implored us to remember the context:

“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”

True enough, and hear, hear.   Why, then, is any automotive sale, any capitalist’s dividend boost worth the same? Why, one might ask an agency allegedly devoted to travel safety, are we still pressing on with cars-first transportation?  There are, after all, other ways to live.