He really said that, didn’t he?
“And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any (projected COVID-19 deaths) numbers we’re talking about,” The Donald bloviated at a briefing, “that doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars.”
And Trump’s not the only one chanting the “we run over people don’t we?” chorus. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, piped in. “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about.”
Um, no, that’s not quite right.
We don’t “accept” upwards of 40,000 traffic deaths a year as a necessary price to pay so Americans “can move about.”
It is, rather, the blood that we spill so we can drive as fast, as carelessly and as distractedly as we please in our increasingly oversized, overpowered and over-engineered vehicles of choice.
Because that is the autoAmerican way.
Listen, if we’re going to be honest about it, ‘We The People” built that staggering death toll atop nearly a century of bad public policy. Everything from the way we design roads to the way we do land use planning to the way we calculate speed limits – and then mostly turn a blind eye when drivers routinely ignore them – all of that and more conspire to keep those death numbers up.
We’re all so freaked out about coronavirus, hardly anybody noticed the recent news that, at the Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, in Stockholm, the US was the only one of 140 nations to refuse to sign a global pledge to eliminate road deaths by 2050.
No surprise there. The feds have zero vision for Vision Zero.
Not that most state or local officials are much better.
StreetsblogUSA reports that, when states sent their fatality reduction goals to the Federal Highway Administration “18 states explicitly told the federal agency that their roadway fatality target was actually an increase in total pedestrian and cyclist deaths over the previous year.”
And, yes, Florida was among them.
Here’s more. A recent Boston University survey of American mayors found that 76 percent believe their cities are “too oriented toward cars,” and about 37 percent think pedestrians and bicyclists are unsafe in their cities.
Nevertheless, 80 percent believe their speed limits are just right or too low – and never mind that speed is the number one determining factor in pedestrian deaths.
Again, no surprise. Cities that ticket too many speeders are roundly shamed as greedy “speed trap” operators (ask Waldo). Many states prohibit or restrict the use of cameras to ticket red light runners and speeders.
Just as we know the steps necessary to keep Covid19 from spiraling out of control, we also know how to drastically reduce highway deaths. Design urban roads with safety, not speed, in mind for a start.
The same technology that enables Florida to bill drivers who use the Turnpike without a SunPass could also be deployed to dun motorists who drive recklessly through city streets. But that would make motor voters mad.
If you want to get away with murder in autoAmerica kill a pedestrian or cyclist with your car. The dead can’t tell their side, and if your story is convincing enough “He came out of nowhere, officer!) you may not even get points on your license.
But, sure, let’s pretend all those dead people are the legitimate price we must pay “so we can move about.”
Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at floridavelocipede.com.