Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The most dangerous consumer product in the US

This AZ press release makes some very good points about driving and road safety. As I am fond of saying, "If any other consumer product had this sort of safety record, it would be pulled from the market within a week."

When I say things like that, people point out that the majority of Americans either drive or ride in a car every day, so it's not surprising that we have a few deaths. OK, let's look at this another way. What if 30,000+ people were killed every year using a computer, or a credit card? Those are some pretty mundane task that tens of millions - maybe more than a hundred million - of people use every day. Would we accept someone using a computer dying every 15 minutes? Would we accept 30,000+ people dying from turning on the lights in their homes or making coffee?

Why is it acceptable to lose this many people every year by motor vehicle? Especially when the majority of those deaths could be easily prevented by making sure that people take driving seriously. No, you can't talk on the phone. No, you can't drink alcohol. No, you can't go over the speed limit. Not OK. A motor vehicle is a large, complex, dangerous machine, which is why we require people to have a license to operate one.

In many countries of the world, getting a driver's license is hard and expensive. And losing one is easy. In some European countries, you can lose your license for a year if you get your first DUI, and if you get three, ever, you will never be issued a license again, for the rest of your life.

Yes, we make it easy to get a driver's license, and hard to lose it, in this country because most people have no other way to get around, if they can't drive. Children can't get to school, unless their parents drive them. People wouldn't be able to work, shop, visit friends and relatives, see the doctor, or otherwise do normal activities. Of course, 30% of the US population doesn't drive, but they are considered some sort of freaks, those too young, too old, too cheap, too frail, or too environmentally conscious to drive or own a car.

But we need to rethink this whole transportation thing. People shouldn't be trapped in their cars to live, work, and move about. It's too expensive - for both individuals and taxpayers, too unsustainable - in so many ways, and yes, too dangerous to have everyone doing it.

My mantra: "Driving should be a choice, not a requirement."

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