Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let's Stop Driving.

Enough is enough.

On Tuesday morning as I was getting ready for work, my mom told me about a terrible tragedy. A car accident occurred Monday evening in Damascus that claimed the life of Ryan Didone, and has another teenager fighting for her life. Ryan Didone was the son of Tom Didone, a police officer who worked closely with my father (Joseph A. Mattingly) as members of the underage alcohol program in Montgomery County. Chances are, if you were busted at a drinking party in the late 80's or early 90's, they were among the officers who made your night suck.

As many of you already know, my father was also killed in an automobile accident, back in 2003. But they aren't alone. There are about 45,000 transportation-related fatalities a year in the United States. Not fender-benders, not injuries, deaths; 45,000 of them. Of those 45,000 deaths, approximately 42,000 were a result of motor vehicle collisions. The remaining 3,000 include aviation, boating, heavy/light rail, railroad and railroad trespassers (people standing in the way of trains), and others.

But back to the focus here, 42,000 people die every year while driving on, biking on, or walking near roadways. Cars kill people. And despite dramatic advances in technology and information, they haven't really stopped killing people. Air bags, seatbelt laws, anti-lock brakes, these have all been around for over a decade now, and there has been no noticeable decrease in the number of people getting killed by car accidents. And I use the phrase "getting killed by" rather than "dying in" intentionally. Car accidents deserve the same level of villainy associated with heart disease and bears; not completely unavoidable, but very preventable.

I'll probably be making several posts over the next....well, over the rest of my life, arguing that the United States needs to take the lead in reducing our dependence on motor vehicles, with the intent of eliminating them altogether.

I'm not going to go into the whole discussion right now, but I do want to handle one point right off the bat. I've talked to several people about this viewpoint of mine, and often one of the first arguments against it that comes up is, "People won't want to get rid of their cars." In the past, I've accepted this as a likely hurdle, and one that would be difficult to overcome. Now, however, I'm realizing that it's perhaps the most foolish hurdle of any. People will initially want to keep their cars, yes, that's true. But I think that most people are smart enough that when they think about it, they'd rather be alive and ride a fancy metro system than be dead and own a Mazda Miata. It's a tough sell, but I think I can pull it off.

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