Since moving to Utah, I have been absolutely shocked at the level of carnage that people here are willing to accept on this state’s roads and highways. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear about another fatality, or two, or more. Most are senseless, too, like this story that cost two young people in suburban Ogden their lives just a few days ago.
As a cyclist, I sometimes feel as though motorists are targeting me but they’re not. The reality is that there is a small (but growing) subset of road users who will kill anyone who gets in their way, regardless of what they’re driving. They need to be removed from the roads. Permanently. Forevermore. By any means necessary. Now.
But banning these selfish fools from ever driving again is not enough. The numbers speak for themselves. Thirty thousand deaths by motor vehicle each and every year, the vast majority of which are completely avoidable with a little common sense. I think this is something worth discussing, so here are my thoughts.
Lower the speed limits already…
The speed limit on Utah highways is 80 mph. In the cities, it’s 70 mph. In many cases, that’s way too fast for conditions. People can’t handle it. When they get in trouble at those speeds, it’s game over. When they hit someone at those speeds, there’s not much that can be done. The proof is in the pudding. The common sense solution if you want to save lives is to simply slow down. Since most people won’t do it without a little prodding, prod them. Lower the limits.
And why stop with just highways? There is absolutely no reason to drive over 20 mph through residential areas yet people do it all the time. Then we hear about the 4 or 5 year old who darted in front of a car and how nothing could have been done to save him or her. I call BS. Something could have been done. We just choose not to do it. Research is pretty clear on this. Lower speed limits save lives and they don’t lead to significantly longer trip times. It costs virtually nothing to do this. It’s a no-brainer.
Lower speed limits also make it easier to build shared streets. They already do this in parts of Europe, Asia and down under. We should do it here. Shared streets (motor vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle) are vastly more affordable when compared to separate infrastructure for each class of road user. There’s no reason why we couldn’t do this nationwide right now, today. All it takes is a little courage.
Change motor vehicle marketing methodologies
I get the top down, pedal to the metal marketing most motor vehicle manufacturers prefer. It sells. Unfortunately, it also kills. The days when there were open roads in America is long gone. Even rural freeways are jam packed with tractor trailers these days. You can’t escape the crowds anywhere, not even in rural Wyoming or Nevada.
Alcohol companies now encourage their customers to “drink responsibly” so why is it that automobile companies still encourage their customers to drive recklessly and put others at risk? They shouldn’t. The message needs to change.
Enforce traffic laws
Collisions and crashes just don’t happen. There’s always a root cause. It almost always boils down to driver behavior. You say that maybe the road is poorly designed or engineered? I hear you. So slow down. Trimming your speed almost always solves the problem of a poorly designed road. It also mitigates the risk of the idiot coming the other direction, totally oblivious to it all.
No, most motor vehicle
accidents (bad word) crashes and collisions are caused by pilot error. Somebody is almost always at fault. When lives are lost, whether due to inattentiveness or wanton recklessness, people need to be brought to account. We need to stop saying “there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent this.” That’s absurd. There’s almost always something that can be done, and nothing changes behavior like real life consequences.
I am not willing to accept 30,000 deaths per year, many at the hands of self-entitled, arrogant fools who only think of themselves. The roads belong to all of us. They belong to me. They belong to you. We have fundamental right (more on that Monday) to use them as we need to. We have a fundamental right to use them as we please. It’s high time that we as a nation stopped prioritizing a machine (the automobile) over human life. I’m not willing to accept it any longer. This is an easy problem to fix. It’s time to fix it.