How the Law Enshrines Car Dependence

Land use regulations provide exhibit A in this indictment of the American legal system's support for a murderous and destructive dependence on automobiles for transportation.

1 minute read

July 10, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Cars and Herbie

JD Hancock / Flickr

Gregory H. Shill, an associate professor of law at the University of Iowa College of Law, writes for The Atlantic about how the laws and regulations of the United States force Americans to drive.

According to Shill, "over the course of several generations lawmakers rewrote the rules of American life to conform to the interests of Big Oil, the auto barons, and the car-loving 1 percenters of the Roaring Twenties."

"Land-use law, criminal law, torts, insurance, vehicle safety regulations, even the tax code—all these sources of law provide rewards to cooperate with what has become the dominant transport mode, and punishment for those who defy it," writes Shill.

Shill starts the detailing of these claims by focusing on local land use regulations. Other laws relevant to planning, like the 85 percent law used to set speed limits, are also detailed.

The consequences of what Shill calls "auto supremacy" are tragic: "In a country where the laws compel the use of cars, Americans are condemned to lose friends and relatives to traffic violence." Added to the 40,000 people killed and 4 million injured, are the effects of climate change and air pollution.

Shill's writing for The Atlantic previews a larger journal article published in June, titled "Should Law Subsidize Driving?"

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in The Atlantic

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