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Monday
Jun132011

Freedom

The New York Times reports this morning that the FBI is has been given wider powers to spy on people in the fight against terrorism.

A little more freedom is sacrificed in the cause of everyone’s safety.

As terrible as 9/11 was when 3,000 people lost their lives, over ten times that number die on our roads in traffic accidents every year.

This means well over 300,000 people have lost their lives on US highways in the 10 years following 9/11. Where is the outrage? If these numbers were war casualties, members of our armed services there would be outrage.

Actually road deaths went down in 2010 to 32,788, the lowest figures since 1949, and while this can be viewed as good news, it still translates close to 90 people will die today, another 90 tomorrow, 630 per week, and so on. Again where is the outrage?

Cars are being made ever safer for the people inside that vehicle, but not for others who get hit by one; especially if that person is on foot or on a bicycle. Even in my little compact car if I am T-boned by an SUV my chances of survival are slim.

On the subject of losing a little of our freedom in the name of safety, how about losing the freedom to drive like an idiot.

I think I can safely say that most fatal road deaths are caused by driver error, not the machine itself or the road it is on. Impatience, speed, aggressive driving, and distracted driving are the primary cause of most car crashes.

In the UK, where people have a lot less freedom than in the US, new road safety laws are in force, where the police can levy on-the-spot fines for aggressive driving, tailgating, etc. What a great deterrent; a police officer stops you, asks for your credit or debit card, and charges you between $130 and $160 on the spot.

How about a more comprehensive driving test to start with, followed by the worst traffic offenders losing the privilege to drive. If someone dies as a result of someone else’s poor driving, there should be some serious consequences; all too often it is seen simply as an accident.

It really is an outrage that a minority are allowed the freedom to drive in a careless and dangerous manner, when the result is someone else losing their ultimate freedom, their life.

 

                       

Reader Comments (9)

Here in the UK, about 2000 people per year are killed on the roads. As a percentage of the population, I think that's a lot lower than the USA. Reasons might be that the driving test is more difficult to pass and the roads are more heavily policed. Although it's also possible that drivers here are just more saftey-minded.

Having said all that, I'm still fear to go out on my bike here any more due to the volume of traffic and the number of idiots on the road.

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstephen_mc

Stephen_mc,
Depends how dedicated you are to cycling. I refuse to let fear stop me from doing what I have done all my life. Ride my bike.
I mentioned in the piece that 90 will die on US roads each day, cyclists account for less than 2 of those deaths per day. I like my odds, and riding defensively increases my odds of survival tremendously.
Dave

June 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

It seems road accidents are considered just that - accidents - even if the driver made a major mistake in judgement. The amount of people killed on roads should be shocking, however, people are so used to it - only spectacular crashes make the news.

After a few decades of road riding, was hit for the first time a few weeks ago. Not fully hit, but grazed close enough by a pick up truck to cut my elbow. Doesn't get much closer then that. A few more inches to the left, I'd be very injured - or worse.

The driver originally kept driving and left the scene. The driver did turn around with a shocked look on her face after I bounced off the side of her truck. I filed a police report and continued my ride home. She later looped back and talked to the same officer. She was cited for "Inattentive Driving", but not a hit and run, since she came back.

This post hit home, just a few inches could have made me a road statistic as well.

If interested, story posted on my blog: http://yoeddy.blogspot.com/2011/05/bike-to-work-day-hit-and-run-included.html

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Major road crashes are daily occurrences in my 'hood and often cause important highway routes to be closed for hours. Most "accidents" are preventable but car commercials in America are always showing drivers speeding down urban roads that are clear of pedestrians and other inconvenient auto users.

Perhaps if we actually took away driving privileges for a year or more for serious errors-injuries, then most drivers would receive an important message. Heavy motorized vehicles are lethal weapons. Yes we have made them safer for occupants but not for those on the outside. Tougher driving exams are a must and should be required every ten years.

Terrorism on public roads has yet to be addressed and when a DOT tries it fails:
http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/cyclists-feel-singled-out-in-draft-of-florida-safety-campaign/1175012

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Fear steals too many of our freedoms, too often we deny ourselves freedoms because of our fears. Your post reminded me of an older post about fear and cycling by Mighk Wilson. His post is entitled Freedom from Fear you can read it here, http://www.floridabicycle.org/freedomfromfear.html I think you already practice safe riding practices but the article uses statistics and common sense ideas that make a strong case for the idea that cycling can be a lot safer than we are lead to believe. I hope you find some value in it.

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermdfrank

Hi Dave, I agree with you and the others. I also believe tougher driving tests (both written and actuall driving) are necessary. I also think once you reach the age of seventy that one must take a written and driving test and maybe some type of reactions / motor skills test. My parents are getting up there in age and both are very alert. Their physical and motor skills are excellent. But I still think they should take these exams. I also agree that many car commercials here in the US project the image of speeding and stunts.They typically show on the screen a warning (albiet the smallest and shortest message possible) about professional driver, closed course etc... mainly to protect their liability, not us !
But I believe the worst of all is the "electronic leash" user. Talking, texting etc...
is by far the worst and all the insurance companies probably have the statistics to prove it. Hence they want drivers not to do this and so do I. The telecommunications companies lobby against laws that prohibit this activity so they can make more profit. Just think, what did we do before the "leash" was invented? We waited until we could get to a phone out of our cars to make the call. Don't get me wrong, I think these devices are great tools. Just don't use them while you are driving. At least pull off the road, stop,then do your calling.

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Dave,

Your piece seems to promote a dichotomy of ideas. You begin by reporting on new powers given to the FBI which, as you state, would amount to a loss of freedom in exchange for safety. I agree with you assessment by the way. But then you end up promoting greater governmental oversight and powers in regards to driving violations, even while pointing out that driving deaths went down in 2010. In fact, you laud a new UK safety law which would, in effect, give judicial powers to the police.

Was there some sarcasm in your writing that I missed? Do you really think more government intervention is the answer?

Let us hold to and promote personal responsibility over an evermore empowered police state.

David

June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

David,
Yes I suppose you could call it sarcasm. Imagine the uproar in the US if the police were given the power to fine people on the spot for reckless driving. Such powers would never be granted to police in the US; yet it is OK to erode freedom in the name of fighting terrorism.

If the same number of US citizens died due to terrorism as die on our roads, and the government did nothing to protect us, there would be outrage. That’s why we accept all the over the top security bullshit at airports, etc. etc.

In the mean time the real slaughter is allowed to continue on the public highways because apparently in a “Free” society you cannot place enough restrictions on a few people who want to drive in a dangerous and reckless manner.

If a parent can’t send their child out to ride a bicycle on a public road, where is the freedom? That is the point I am trying to make.

A child killed by a terrorist bomb is not acceptable, but a child killed on the road, while considered a tragedy, it is accepted as "Just an accident" because the roads are dangerous. The roads are not dangerous, the people allowed to operate on the roads are dangerous.

If a person can’t drive a motor vehicle along a paved road, with guidelines painted on it, without running into people they shouldn’t be allowed to drive a motor vehicle.

Simple as that, and BTW I am being sarcastic.
Dave

June 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I think for traffic fines we need to follow the lead of Norway or Finland. Fines are based on your income. If you are poor a $50-100 fine is going to hurt. Bill Gates might have that rolling around the seats of his car. I think the head of Nokia picked up a $14K fine for speeding. That should get his attention and perhaps others with large incomes.

June 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

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