Saturday, December 16, 2006

Marginalizing Bad Drivers

I can't stand these people that try to use Iraqi War deaths to buttress a most likely deeper criticism of the war.

My stock response is always, "Yeah, well over 100 Americans died in car accidents yesterday..."

Recently I had this altercation and the guy responded, "You may be an intelligent guy but that is a stupid thing to say." Then he "cut and ran" from the discussion.

Since that conversation ended, I will continue it here.

Devil's Advocate - I think what he is saying is that people die everyday for stuff like lung cancer and that doesn't mean we should ignore military deaths...

That's a bad example because lung cancer comes (mostly) from a self-destructive bad habit. I am just trying to put the deaths in perspective since Big Media does such a poor job of it.

Members of the military are paid volunteers doing heroic work AND they're fully aware of the risks of their choice. Their deaths are certainly tragic.

But for me, there is far more tragedy in someone dying simply on their drive home from work. If the numbers were closer it'd be a different story. But 3,000 military deaths in 3.75 years can't be compared to 160,000 auto accident deaths over that same period. There are substantially more widows and orphans created on American roads than in Iraqi deserts.

For most Americans, Iraq is an abstraction. If you don't know a soldier, turn on the news, or open a newspaper that war may as well not even exist. Bill O'Reilly said last night that the 15 minute segments of his show on Iraq are the least watched of his whole program. Many Americans like me just don't care. Thankfully I have the fast forward button of my DVR.

Devil's Advocate - So if you aren't there, then it's an abstraction? So was the Holocaust just an abstraction that people could justifiably ignore if they didn't know any Jews?

If there was a different Holocaust, forty times as big going on in America, then you could rightfully chock up Hitler's Holocaust as a trivial development in a far off land. My point is that auto accidents are such a more immediate danger to Americans than 7th century "insurgents" in Iraq. There are plenty of viable arguments against the war, but the number of military deaths doesn't even crack the top 100.

Almost every time I get in my car, I am toting my most prized possessions in life - my wife and two small children.

Of the five different cities I have lived in, Boston drivers are absolutely the most dangerous.

First of all, you have octogenarians in Oldsmobiles and Buicks driving everywhere. You know, modern society estranged them from their kids so they aren't living with them. Their kids won't confiscate their car keys because who'll then chauffeur the dinosaurs around? And as I mentioned in a previous post, they don't want to be cut out of the will - no matter how many kids their doting parents run over.

Watch the video and keep your eyes on the man crossing the street. The cause of the accident was cell phone yapping. It's horrid to think that that pedestrian got flattened because some self-centered bastard JUST HAD TO TALK TO SOMEONE...

People in Boston are all invariably yapping on their cell phones (not illegal yet), watching a dvd, text messaging, or driving with their dog on their lap like my neighbor.

Yeah officer, the only reason I ran over that little kid was because my little Fifi jumped up to lick my face. She is so sweet my little Fifi.

Remember this is a state that bans tag at recess because it's dangerous but it won't outlaw driver cell phone yapping.

Devil's Advocate - You are being over-dramatic about kids getting run over?

Am I? How would anyone know? Go try to find stats about the complicity of cell phones and car accidents. This stuff is confoundingly not reported. At the scene of any accident, drivers should be interrogated as to cell phone usage. It's easy enough to verify the call times from cell phone bills.

My peeves, as usual, are cemented by logic. I hate tailgaters and I hate right-lane highway speeders - they tend to be the dangerous weavers. I loathe drivers that imperil my safety; in fact I take it quite personally.

Off the highway, if you tailgate me, I will quickly glance at the mirror and profile your sanity. If you don't look like some gun-carrying lunatic, I will immediately hit the breaks and drive as low as 15 mph to teach you a lesson. Good luck trying to go around my massive Earth-scorching Chevy Suburban. Even if I am in a hurry, I feel duty-bound to self-sacrifice and teach the tailgater a lesson about appropriate driving distance and perhaps better personal time management.

I also can't stand these drivers on the highway that think coming within six inches of your fender is a normal way to ask you to shift right and let them pass. High beams from a distance are rude enough. Bear in mind that if I am driving 10 mph over the limit already, I feel no compulsion to switch lanes. No one is entitled to drive 80 mph. The highway is a dangerous place to have pissing contests but sometimes you have to push back provided safety permits.

When I was a child the government agents in "schools" erroneously taught us that a yellow light meant take to caution and slow down. Nowadays it means, hit the gas and fly through that intersection. See, I have been saying over and over again that teachers lie to the students!

This was in fact the cause of a car accident that destroyed my back almost 8 years ago. The traffic light turned yellow, and some geriatric in Philly misjudged how far from the light he was, hit the gas, and came barreling into the cab I was riding in. We had a green light and had just eased into the intersection at 21st and Lombard. Because he was accelerating, the fossil hit us so hard that both cars were wrapped around a telephone pole. They needed the jaws of life to get the Moron out of his car.

I could have been hurt far worse than I was so I hate to complain about my plight. But if you really loathe someone, wish a bad back upon them. A bad back pains physically AND psychologically. Every frustration or setback tortures your body as well as your mind. Always an intense hothead, now I have to exert constant effort on chi management. Perhaps one day I will write a positive post and expound some more on my techniques.

Boston is a self-described "tough town". But the cold climate, rudeness, and economic malaise do not chisel out "tough" citizens as people here like to think of themselves. It churns out egocentric *ssholes. Nowhere is it more apparent than on the roadways.

Let me walk you through the morass of Boston's driving/traffic problems.

First of all, the mass transit here sucks. The government does not encourage people to take the trains or buses. They won't build high rise apartments near train stations. You wouldn't believe the trouble West Roxbury gives to anyone who tries to build an apartment or two near its train station. They want traffic studies, environmental studies, etc. They have old people in town who still drive down Centre Street to mail a letter or buy groceries 3 times a week and don't want any more "traffic". As a result, no young people live downtown and therefore you can forget about a vibrant market for bars, restaurants, or other commercial development. The lack of high rise apartments precludes a critical mass of residents, which would otherwise energize the local economy and put a dent in commuting traffic. Centre Street in West Roxbury is one of the most pathetic dilapidated main streets I have ever seen - 5 miles from Boston no less (only 22 minutes on the train). No normal young people would ever consider living there as it stands.

But that's not the only side effect. Since there is no way to live near a train station, everyone has to scatter about, own a car, and drive everywhere. See how these things spiral out of control? Arguments to discourage "traffic" invariably make it worse.

Last year, gasoline crossed the $3 dollar level and likely tempted many drivers to think about taking mass transit to work. A good thing right? Well the Massachusetts government apparently wanted to forestall that - they raised fares across the board. Subway fares are going up the most - 36% next month. They claim the fare hikes are required by law. The MBTA is hiding behind a "legal requirement" to balance their budget.

Bet your bottom dollar that the budget is in the red because of unions. Remember, environmentalism ALWAYS plays second fiddle to socialism - a lesson Greg Mankiw would be wise to digest.

Alongside the octogenarian driver is the more dangerous teenage/college punk driver. There are scores of them and not just because of the socialist/environmental zoning restrictions that force everyone into car-dependent lifestyles. Remember, Massachusetts is a full-blown Communist bastion. Under the shibboleth of equality, the Commonwealth will not let auto insurance companies price discriminate on very important factors. Generically speaking, they can't discriminate based on age or geography no matter what actuarial risk profiles demonstrate. Consequently, young drivers pay the same premiums as safer, older drivers; and rural drivers have to ante up just as much as more accident prone city drivers.

Devil's Advocate - This isn't fair?

Not only is it not fair, it's very dangerous. Why should older, safer drivers in rural Western Mass have to subsidize lane-weaving college kids in Boston? It befuddles the mind why at least half of the state's representatives haven't risen up in arms to protest this price distortion. Their deafening silence implies at least a fear of Boston-based pols and at most a stark ignorance of economic reality. The study I read concluded that car insurance is, on average, $150 higher than it would be if insurers were free to "discriminate" just on age and geography. Allowed to charge the accident prone their fair premiums, fewer urbanites and fewer youths will be on the roads.

Why does Mass have this policy on geographical discrimination? Who knows? I believe it's because they don't want minority Dorchesterites to be paying more than the bluebloods in Chestnut Hill. Or maybe it germinated from the power of Boston pols who just wrested cheaper car insurance for their constituents. When I lived in Philly, a friend of mine was given his father's BMW. He called for an insurance quote, for a new BMW , parked on the street in Philly, driven by a 23 year old. They told him insurance would be 7k per year. Needless to say, that BMW never made it down to the City of Brotherly Love. He took the subway and cabs instead.

Whatever the original motivations or ongoing justifications, free market meddling in the name of "equality" remains socialism with all of its attendant negative externalities. Here it goes beyond just higher prices and lower efficiency because people not so infrequently die in car accidents.

Now back to my "cut and run" critic who thinks I am a fool to talk about highway deaths. He doesn't have any kids to worry about or to make him drive a little bit safer. I suggest he think about OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS or even his own health. Over one hundred people per day die in car accidents; maybe the number isn't significantly reducible but I highly doubt it. The fact remains, nobody is studying the issue; we are all just supposed to become inured to it - I guess.

My theory is that there is a sub-population of dangerous drivers out there, not very hard to identify. They will be the ones that at some point end up injuring or killing somebody. Surely, everyone knows a few acquaintances that drive like lunatics. People either yap on the phone, speed, tailgate, and weave all of the time OR hardly ever at all. I think they need unmarked police cars out there mounted with cameras to get these specific jackasses off of the roads. Also we need better mass transit, fairer "discriminatory" insurance pricing, and a deregulated cab industry - please don't get me re-started on the cabs.

Bad driving is taken too lightly by almost everyone. Just accept it because it's far worse in other countries? I don't think so. Around 400,000 people have been killed on the roads in just the last 10 years. It is a present day mini-Holocaust.

And that 400,000 number isn't counting all of the broken backs, limbs, and vegetative comas wrought by car accidents - a number likely much larger.

I could be wrong, but I think it's possible to get driving deaths down to say 90 per day rather than current 115 and climbing.

Recently a college classmate of mine and his wife were killed in an auto accident, orphaning their infant daughter. Some guy of dubious immigration status drove across a wide grassy median on the highway and caused the tragic pileup. There was no sign of drugs or alcohol. The guy either fell asleep, was talking on his cell phone, or guilty of some other distraction. The news of this accident was broadcast widely all over New York (of course without the messy illegal immigrant angle). What real life example of most families' worst nightmare wouldn't be?

My wife knows three kids from her high school that were killed ON BICYCLES by automobiles.

A former co-worker of mine came home to the most horrible phone call one day. His wife and fourteen year old son were killed in an accident on the way home from lacrosse practice.

I knew a ten year old child who chased a ball into the street, only to be run over by a passing car.

Think for a moment. How many auto deaths have hit close to your home? That number will only go up.

Some Morons vote for socialists, but others may get distracted by Oprah or SportsCenter and run you over on the street, regardless of whom they voted for.

Be wary of them all.


Hello jalopnik readers!!!

Sorry to disappoint but your webmaster misled you. Nowhere in my post did I insist that deaths from cell phone yapping drivers are worse than the Holocaust. Either he reads too fast or thinks too slowly.

I hope he's got a better grasp of cars than he has of basic reading comprehension!!!


The Owner said...

If we want better mass transit, we need to allow private individuals and private companies to compete with the mass transit monopoly.

I agree it's tragic when people die in car accidents but I am not sure if you have a valid criticism against illegal immigrants when one of them happens to be involved. You could make the same argument about a legal immigrant (if only we had had tighter quotas, this LEGAL immigrant never would've been here!) or a citizen (as you did with the "if they hadn't been on the cell phone/driving with dog in lap/other distraction, this never would've happened!"). Maybe there is a statistic somewhere that says that just by nature of being an illegal immigrant, this class of people tends to drive worse and more recklessly than other classes of drivers, but I am not sure I have seen that statistic.

This is the same problem I have with some of the arguments against illegal immigrants centered around the high cost of medical care. It's argued that illegals are driving it up because they make frequent visits to the emergency room and are otherwise uninsured, so they can't pay the bills and someone else foots it. Yeah, but so do poor people who are on Medicare/Medicaid or make visits to the doctor/emergency room uninsured. The only difference is one of these people happened to be born inside our borders and the other didn't.

Frankly, I don't want to pay for other peoples medical care whether they were born inside this country or not. I don't think having citizenship status entitles you to some special privilege to leech off me without me being peeved by it.

If my "metrics" or perspective is off in this case, please correct me, but this is how I have seen it.

Again though, you're right that if the illegal was never in the country in the first place, he never would've gotten in the accident. In terms of reducing risk, maybe this person would've been a good one to remove from the roads for everyone else's benefit. But like I said, you could make the same argument for a lot of different classes of drivers... there has to be a reasonable limit, otherwise people could point a finger at you and say "As careful as you are C-Nut, it's possible you could make a mistake and hurt or kill someone else... we're taking your license."

The best solution to traffic problems would have to be complete deregulation of the insurance market and a complete privatization of the public roadways. Whatever solution the free market would then come up with for road use would be the most economical, most responsible and safest.

Tax Shelter said...

Sorry about your bad back. I hope technology will provide the answer to bad drivers in the future.

It looks like the accident was the result of multiple mistakes (assuming that the driver of the PT Crusier was running either a yellow or red light). (a) It seems that the pedestrian in the video made a mistake, i.e., he was crossing the street while there probably was a yellow or red light. The stop/walk sign most likely was on "stop" at the time of the accident. (b) The design of the traffic lights was not as good as it could be. Should they be swinging in a light breeze? I bet one has to look for the traffic lights in order to see them, i.e., they are not as obvious/visible as they could be to the eyes of the drivers. (c) It looked like the car that flipped over started to move forward sooner than it should. It feels that the car was already moving before all the cars (except the PT Cruiser) came to a complete stop. Had the driver waited a fraction of a second longer, he probably would have seen the PT Cruiser before it was too late. (d) Should a car flip over so easily? I heard that side impact is the blind spot of both car manufacturers and government safety regulation. (e) Of course the biggest mistake was made by the driver of the PT Cruiser. A tragic and inexcusable mistake.

Fafard on the 16th said...

ummmm...are you insinuating that you are a good driver?...rewind 16 years...didn't you fail your test 3x? OH had an inordinate amount of "doctor's appointments" that winter...

CaptiousNut said...


With admitting or denying your accusation, I will say that I make mistakes all of the time. Just yesterday I superglued two of my fingers together.

No accidents or tickets for me in 14 years. I have a clean driving record jabroni.

A lot can and does change in a decade and a half. For instance, back in the early nineties I recall that you used to occasionally beat me at golf AND you were slightly better at picking up broads.

Who would believe that now, you inveterate tail-gater?

Anonymous said...

Considering that New England and Boston have the lowest death rates of any region in the U.S., what should we the readers think about the rest of your rant?

CaptiousNut said...

I would never tell anyone what to think.

The thrust of my post is a generalized complaint about reckless driving. Some of my post is anecdotal but those snippets are hardly the entire basis for my thesis.

I have lived in five different cities, Boston is by far the most dangerous to drive in. "New England" includes a lot of rural areas. It's probably more dangerous to drive in Latin America, but that doesn't mean 40,000 Americans don't die on the roads here and that nothing should be done.

Why would anyone defend "Bad Drivers"?

Anonymous said...

I almost completely agree with you. If you're really opposed to right lane speeders/weavers, then this is an unreasonable position:
I also can't stand these drivers on the highway that think coming within six inches of your fender is a normal way to ask you to shift right and let them pass. High beams from a distance are rude enough. Bear in mind that if I am driving 10 mph over the limit already, I feel no compulsion to switch lanes. No one is entitled to drive 80 mph. The highway is a dangerous place to have pissing contests but sometimes you have to push back provided safety permits.

Left lane speeding in appropriate vehicles (i.e. not your Suburban) is absolutely not unsafe. About the only dangerouns part of driving 80mph in a well maintained late-model sedan are the guys who assume it is their god-given right to drive slowly in the left-lane and refuse to move to the right. Please re-consider your stance on this. Otherwise... good post.

CaptiousNut said...

It kind of depends on the roads one is driving on. In the South and Western part of the country, roads are well maintained and straight. Up here in the northeast, the roads wind and are always under construction. I am fully aware that 80 mph in Nevada or Georgia can be very safe.

I tend to go on long driving trips a lot. Often times the middle lane will be going like 63 mph and since I need to make time on a 5-10 hour trip, I have to go say 73 mph in the left lane. With a limit of 65, I shouldn't have to get out of the way of anyone. I definitely move most of the time, but like I said in the post, I don't think anyone (on northeastern roads) is entitled to drive 80 mph. I probably should have mentioned the regional differences in my post.

On my shorter highway trips, I drive my Suburban exclusively in the right and middle lanes. I value my kids too much to play games at high speeds.

Unknown said...

Dude, your post makes you sound like one of the bad drivers. Get out of the left lane regardless how fast someone is coming up behind you. I hate idiots who use the left lane as their personal travel lane.

Don Riley said...

If you go 73 mph in a Suburban, I can defintely do 90 mph in my BMW. I will still come to a stop in a 100 yards shorter distance than you, and I will also be able to out manuver a Chevy Suburban doing 73 mph , in case a eighty year old, half black, half asain woman on a cell phone, and driving a Buick, makes a dumb move in front of me !!!!

CaptiousNut said...


Dude, that's funny because I was thinking your "post" makes you sound just like one of the bad drivers I was talking about.

As for the "idiot" label. Realize that after demanding someone vacate a lane for you, you seem to be claiming the left lane as "your personal travel lane". Freud would have a field day with you.

don riley,

First of all, for a second I thought you were describing Tiger Wood's mom as the stereotypical bad driver. I forgot she is all Asian. Tiger does have that deal with Buick...

Secondly, 90 in your BMW? In Philly? I may have to report you to your local authorities. Only a Fedex-ed Primo hoagie can buy my silence.