And I’m not talking about meth.
Edward Humes has some pretty radical ideas for dealing with the U.S.’s out-of-control vehicle killings (boldface mine):
In terms of public health, the National Safety Council’s data on car crashes showed that in 2015, 38,300 people died and 4.4 million were seriously injured….
We have vehicles capable of achieving far higher speeds than the posted limits. Given this, people go too fast. And speeding, we know, is one of the major causes of fatal crashes.
A pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 40 miles an hour has a 10 percent chance of surviving, and one struck by a car at 20 m.p.h. has a 90 percent chance. So when we post a 40-mile maximum speed limit on a boulevard where pedestrians walk, we’re saying that in the event of a crash, a 90 percent mortality rate is acceptable….
We drive way too fast to survive collisions. The bottom line is that speeding is one of the major causes of fatal crashes.
…In the 1920s, The New York Times referred to what we now erroneously call “accidents” as “motor killings.” There was more outrage then.
At the time, there was a nationwide push to have speed governors placed on cars. These were mechanical devices that kept them from going at high speeds. That effort was pushed back by the car industry. It was never deployed in any substantial way.
…But even before that technology [driverless cars] is perfected, a version of those speed governors would help. Certainly, the capability exists right now. Cars already have speed governors in them: cruise control, which permits drivers to set the maximum speed a car should go.
If you link navigation apps which know the speed limit for any given road and add it to cruise control, it takes the decision out of the hands of the driver. You use basically off-the-shelf technology, slightly tweaked with some new software, and you have cars that can’t speed.
Unfortunately, speed regulators on cars are probably too much for people. After all, a significant fraction of the U.S. freaks out over light bulb regulations. But Humes is absolutely correct about one thing: we need to slow cars, especially in areas with lots of pedestrians and cyclists. There are structural solutions we can employ that make it harder (or impossible) to drive fast.
Until we’re serious about slowing cars down, we will continue to have two vehicle killings for every murder in the U.S.
Aside: In terms of body count, violent killings are half that of vehicular killings. In addition, violent killings are concentrated in very small areas (even within cities), meaning most people don’t face the threat of homicide in any meaningful way, especially compared to being killed by a vehicle. Yet our political discourse completely ignores vehicular killings and is fixated on homicides. One might suspect that something else is at play…