'Cars Are Death Machines'

Not one, not two, but three articles in the past week paint dire portraits of the world that cars have created.

2 minute read

October 6, 2019, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Pedestrian Safety

VDB Photos / Shutterstock

Allison Arieff pens a column for the New York Times calls out cars as death machines—and self-driving cars won't save us from that reality. 

"Cars are death machines. Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have increased 41 percent since 2008; more than 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2018 alone. More than 4,000 American kids are killed in car crashes every year," write Arieff.

"Here’s the thing: Statistics clearly don’t seem to persuade anyone of the magnitude of this problem. Not policy makers or automakers, technologists or drivers."

As Twitter-using urbanists will recognize, Arieff spent the summer requesting anecdotes of personal experiences with brushes with death, in an attempt to make a different kind of appeal to those with keys to the world designed for these death machines.

Arieff also turns attention to the technologists contingent of aforementioned group, and clearly states an opinion that self-driving cars will not solve the problem of worsening traffic safety.

Among the safety measures proposed by car companies are encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use R.F.I.D. tags, which emit signals that cars can detect. This means it’s becoming the pedestrian’s responsibility to avoid getting hit. But if keeping people safe means putting the responsibility on them (or worse, criminalizing walking and biking), we need to think twice about the technology we’re developing.

Arieff follows up that paragraph with one of the great kickers in recent memory. Arieff concludes. However, with an appeal to drive less, which is a goal almost everyone can attain.

Arieff's highly recommended article isn't the only technology-skeptical criticism of cars to be published in recent days. There is also an article by Andrew J. Hawkins about how the ineffectiveness of new safety technology—i.e., cars with all the new safety technology keep running people over. Here is the key evidence cited in that article:

The American Automobile Association (AAA) conducted a series of tests using vehicles with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection alerts on a closed course with dummy pedestrians. And what they found was highly upsetting. The vehicles struck the dummy pedestrians that were crossing the road 60 percent of the time — and this was in daylight hours at speeds of 20 mph.

Another article by Peter C. Baker asks why cars are killing more pedestrians. There's heaps of self-driving car skepticism present in this article, like in Arieff's and Hawkins's, but the answer to the question posed in the headline is harder to conjure. Experts aren't totally sure why drivers are killing so many more pedestrians because of the "vast number of variables" involved in each tragic outcome.

Baker's coverage clocks in at long-read status, with plenty of revelatory information to share despite airing on the side of caution in answering the question ultimately behind the entire discourse.

Friday, October 4, 2019 in The New York Times

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Scooters Portland

Report: Municipal Fees and Taxes Hinder Shared Micromobility Adoption

City taxes and fees on shared bikes and scooters are, on average, much higher per mile than similar taxes on cars.

30 minutes ago - Streetsblog USA

Wildfire burning at night on hillsides next to Lake Elsinore, California.

California Faces Early Surge in Wildfires

Summer is just beginning, but wildfires in California have already burned more than 90,000 acres.

1 hour ago - Los Angeles Times

Solar panels in a green field

Solar Industry Growing Fast, but is Hampered by Aging Grid

One of solar’s biggest challenges is getting the energy where it needs to go.

2 hours ago - NBC Washington

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.