More Evidence of Public Concern

It has long been asserted, across the political spectrum, that the great American majority want cars, cars, and nothing but cars.

Among our social classes, that inflexible attitude is, in actuality, held only by the overclass, those “primary beneficiaries” (quoting business historian Alfred D. Chandler) of corporate capitalism, who are certainly very far from a majority of the U.S. population.

Despite a century of indoctrination by these vested interests, and notwithstanding the near total neglect of proper analysis and leadership from the would-be left, and notwithstanding the big swath of automotive insanity that admittedly exists within it, benighted car-lust is not held by the actual majority, meanwhile.

Evidence of this lack of ascribed unconcern abounds, if ones bothers to look for it. Here is one recent and imortant piece of actual thoughtfulness among the masses:

safety survey results

Kid Killer

Per The New York Times, May 29, 2017:

The most common cause of death in children under the age of 15 is unintentional injury, and the most common cause of unintentional injury is car accidents. Between 2010 and 2014, 2,885 children died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide — an average of 11 children a week. That number excludes pedestrians.

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 Wages of Opportunism

C. Wright Mills complained of the U.S. left’s “liberal practicality,” by which he meant a tendency to sell out at the first chance, a “kind of democratic opportunism.”

quixote Ralph Nader, for all his upsides, is a major case-in-point, and precisely in the area that delivered him his fame — cars.

Consider the pathetic lawsuit just filed by Public Citizen and allies. The goal? To force car capitalists to make back-up cameras standard on all car models sold in the United States. The alleged reason? Such cameras “would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year.”

Now, let’s take 112 deaths as a real number. In 2012, a total of 34,080 people were killed in U.S. automotive collisions. 112 divided by 34,080 equals 0.003. That’s three-tenths of one percent.

And, of course, one major question is how much good a back-up camera actually does. If a child darts in front or back of a moving car, how much does the camera speed driver reaction time? It certain can’t be 100%, and might well be close to zero. Meanwhile, according to the Naderian logic of lawsuit, once the cameras are mandatory, the inherent dangers of automobiles to darting children are just fine and dandy.

Such tragi-comic flea-fucking, is, alas, the beginning, middle, and end of what passes for transportation militancy in this market totalitarian society, despite the times.

Selling Violent Death

Like so much else in the market-totalitarian United States of America, Big Brother would be hopping jealous of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not only does the agency get away with its name — as if “safety,” rather than danger, is the topic raised by “highway traffic” — but it also functions as a more or less open adjunct to the corporate car-sales effort.

Consider the issue of NHTSA “frontal crash tests,” the procedure that yields the “government 5-star ratings” that are a staple in automotive advertising. If the truth be told, these tests are merely another form of public subsidy to cars-first transportation. As a basis for making marketing claims, they are gold. As a source of legitimate information about the risks of owning and operating any particular car, however, they are close to meaningless.

This is so for two main reasons.

First, the NHTSA rates cars only within what it calls (in perhaps the only space in mainstream America where the “c”-word has legitimacy) “vehicle classes.” These are:

Passenger cars mini (PC/Mi) (1,500-1,999 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars light (PC/L) (2,000-2,499 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars compact (PC/C) (2,500-2,999 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars medium (PC/Me) (3,000-3,499 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars heavy (PC/H) (3,500 lbs. and over curb weight.)
Sport utility vehicles (SUV)
Pickup trucks (PU)
Vans (VAN)

Thus, a vehicle “class” is really a weight-grouping.

And here’s the kicker: The NHTSA conducts crash tests only between vehicles belonging to the same weigh-class. It does not conduct tests of crashes between vehicles in different classes! Hence, the number of “government stars” a particular car gets is a measure only of how it compares in a crash with other vehicles of its own mass. The stars provide zero information about the safety of cars in crashes between “classes.”

Think this doesn’t matter? Consider this photo of a head-on collision at a mere 34 miles-per-hour between a medium-sized Audi Q7 SUV and a Fiat 500, a model about to be introduced by Chrysler/Fiat in the United States.

fiat_crash reports:

The result was worrying, for the passengers in the Fiat 500 at least, confirming the old adage that size does matter.

In particular, the testers noted that the driver of the Fiat 500 was very vulnerable as the driver’s airbag can force the driver’s head towards the A-pillar, which causes the upper body to come into contact with the steering wheel. ADAC also noted that the airbag burst shortly after deploying, and that the sheer force of the crash would have caused serious, life threatening injuries to the driver – especially in the neck, leg and pelvic areas.

In contrast, the Q7 fared much better than the Fiat 500. The injury risks for every passenger in the Q7 was low – while not even passengers in the back seats would have been spared from injury in the 500, despite it being a frontal crash.

ADAC concluded that the Fiat’s poor performance was due to the great mass of the Q7 and its front-flat structure which is not conducive to spreading the impact of crash energy. The results clearly demonstrate why consumers [sic] shouldn’t compare safety ratings between different classes. The Fiat 500, for example, garnered a five-star safety rating in its class from EuroNCAP, while the Q7 only managed to gain four stars.

Meanwhile, the second factor that renders NHTSA testing a joke is the fact that they are based on flat-frontal, not offset, impacts. To derive its scores, the NHTSA drives test cars straight and square into a wall. In the real world, of course, this kind of flush, symmetrical impact is extremely rare, as almost all auto collisions happen off-center and/or at angles, which has the effect of exerting the force of the crash on only a part of the vehicle, rather than through the whole frame. This, in turn, greatly multiplies the problem of “intrusion,” meaning the amount of the car that gets shoved into the spaces occupied by driver and passengers. Intrusion, of course, is one of the main risk factors for serious injury or death in car crashes.

The NHTSA star system measures neither inter-class nor offset collisions. The NHTSA star system, therefore, serves one purpose and one purpose only: permitting car corporations to make inflated safety claims in their advertisements.