Cars Are Dangerous

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Nothing to see here, just a 50-100 car pile-up on the Turnpike this morning:

The wreckage included at least 16 cars and SUVs piled up behind two big rigs, a van overturned, a jackknifed tractor-trailer turned with multiple cars crashed into it and a moving van sideways on the partially slushy roadway.

At least 50 to 100 cars, trucks and SUVs were involved in the series of wrecks — hundreds of other cars were stopped on the roadway between the crashes.

It looked like multiple cars couldn’t stop, said SkyForce10’s Jeremy Haas.

I’m amazed at how quickly I got bored with this story, but it’s worth stepping back and thinking at moments like this about how incredible it is that our culture is willing to accept such high costs from this transportation paradigm (basically an omnipresent risk of serious injury or fatality) and essentially view it as though it’s a natural part of life. Unthinking usage of the word “accident” isn’t helping things either, NBC Philadelphia!

It’s just weird that the cumulative impact of the very frequent crashes and repair costs (think of how much money all these people are going to shell out today) barely even register as a political issue. We have a very nice regional rail system serving 5 counties. We could upgrade it to rapid transit standards and make the trains run every 20-30 minutes. We could invest in better bus service (and free jitneys!) in the areas near the stations to round up commuters and bring people to the regional rail stations. The idea that all these people “have to” drive into Philadelphia every day is the biggest lie in our transportation politics.

This entry was posted in Transportation.

8 Responses to Cars Are Dangerous

  1. John says:

    Spot on. Just like our culture is willing to put up with the high costs of allowing easy access to guns.

  2. GDub says:

    Of course, driving has never been safer. Do you think train travel remains unaffected by snow? Folks in Europe might disagree this year.

    Probably fair to say that part of the “problem” is people insisting on doing business in bad weather rather than the form of transportation.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Actually the trains kept running in most of the snow storms this year. The point isn’t that they’re “unaffected” since obviously there’s a risk factor for all forms of transportation. But the numbers are clear: you’re about 11 times safer on a train than driving a car or small truck. Driving remains more dangerous even when it’s not snowing.

  3. Danny says:

    That’s the way I travel to work. I would much rather take the train but I’m thankfully able to carpool. SEPTA really only travels north-south, so if you’re traveling from somewhere on the periphery to somewhere else on the periphery, there’s no easy way to get there.

  4. GDub says:

    I would dispute that anyone has “accepted” high traffic deaths. Legislation and regulation–demanded by the public, the Congress, and government agencies–have drastically changed the technologies of vehicle safety and road design for cars. The deathtraps of 60 years ago would be unrecognizable today. (The same holds true for air and train travel). Having fewer vehicles on the road, particularly as cargo continues to go more to rail, only can help.

    The chart provides an odd comparison. It compares all vehicle miles (whether short haul or long haul) with a very controlled train trip, as if people only travel between train stations. I don’t dispute that trains are a good platform for building regional systems, but comparing an interstate highway system to SEPTA doesn’t work.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Is the shockingly large number of auto deaths a political issue that you hear any politicians besides Bill DeBlasio or Bill Peduto talking about? They are seen as accidents, not side effects of the dominant modernist paradigm in land use and transportation politics. If they are to be solved, they’re to be solved through engineering changes, not policy changes designed to shift mode share to less dangerous modes.

      The relevant comparison is between making the main portion of your trip by train vs driving that whole way. Driving it would be more dangerous.

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