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Safer Cars

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  • Todd J. Binkley
    Hi everyone, I received the following private message today. I thought I d share it, ... My reply: Regarding devices to improve public safety by preventing
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 8, 2000
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      Hi everyone,

      I received the following private message today. I thought I'd share it,
      and my response, with the group:

      >As a pedestrian & cyclist who is often threatened with bodily
      >harm or death by the misuse of the automobile, I am looking for a
      >measure which will make the streets & sidewalks safer. Can the
      >following realities be used to put the automotive companies on
      >notice that if they do not take safety precautions they will be
      >held liable?
      >1) The newspapers are full of accounts of the killing ability of
      >automobiles.
      >2) The "PAS III Sniffer" is a device used by police, costing $600
      >per unit, to sample the air of drivers suspected to be
      >inebriated. A similar instrument can be adapted & installed in
      >autos. The device can be electronicly connected to the engine.
      >If the driver's breath does not indicate sobriety, the engine
      >will not start.
      >Car manufacturers should be required to install & retrofit autos
      >with such a system. Failure to do so, is failure to safeguard
      >the public against the misuse of their product.
      >3) The technology is available to fit cars with a keycard which
      >can be "read" by an onboard computer. If the keycard indicates
      >the car is registered & sufficiently insured the car will start.
      >If not, the car will not start.
      >4) The same or another keycard can identify the driver as
      >licensed. If the driver is not licensed the car will not
      >start.
      >Will this drive up the cost of the car?
      >Will this promote increased spending on public transit?
      >Will this protect health & lives?
      >Will the auto, oil, road building, alcohol & restaurant
      >industries fight this effort?
      >Will law enforcement promote the effort?
      >Will the insurance industry support the effort?

      My reply:

      Regarding devices to improve public safety by preventing drunks, and
      unlicensed/uninsured motorists from starting their cars:

      Unfortunately, thousands of SOBER drivers, with current licenses and
      insurance, still manage to kill,
      maim and permanently disable themselves, their passengers, other
      drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians every year. A better strategy is to

      begin phasing out automobile use in cities altogether; and replacing
      sprawl with tightly-knit, walkable communities that are linked up
      by fast, clean, efficient public transportation.

      Getting genuine CARFREE developments BUILT must be our primary
      objective. The creation and expansion of truly carfree urban areas will

      facilitate and accelerate far-reaching changes around the globe; which
      will dramatically improve the quality of life of millions of people:

      1) First, those of us who have already embraced the carfree concept
      will be able to enjoy quieter, more hospitable, and yes, SAFER, streets.

      2) Second, the thousands of people who are actively looking for a way
      out of 'carmageddon', will finally gain the freedom from car dependancy
      which they seek.
      3) Soon, these beautiful, vibrant neighborhoods will attract tourists,
      travellers, students and others who are curious to see "what it's like"
      to live, work and play without enduring the hassles, noise, stench,
      expense and danger of automobiles.
      4) Eventually, the myopic, privacy-obsessed, sociophobic 'car potatoes'

      will all die off from the chronic diseases that result from their
      sedentary, smog-sniffing, Prozac-and-Viagra-dependent lifestyles.

      Anything that will substantially reduce the slaughter of innocent human
      beings by irresponsible drivers is worth investigating for the short
      term, in places where car dependancy is still the rule for most people.
      However, no technological fix will ever significantly reduce the
      fundamental power imbalance that exists between a driver and a
      pedestrian, bicyclist or other street user. Trying to make cars 'safe'
      for pedestrians and bicyclists is kind of like trying to make a 'safe'
      cigarette, or a 'safe' gun. Better we create places where those who
      would choose to live their lives without these menaces to public health,

      have the opportunity to do so.

      -T.J.
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