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"The carnage on our roads"

Metroland is inviting readers to submit their attempts to "defend the indefensible" (though Amanda at Pandagon insists that the proper phrase is "slaughtering sacred cows"). Submissions include: Golf is not a sport; The Lord of the Rings movies sucked; Nirvana didn't change anything; Reality TV is really good for America; Reading is a waste of time. Stephen Leon's, though, stood out as actually making a good point:

Anti-drunk-driving groups do more harm than good

For the record, I don’t advocate drunk driving. I don’t think it’s a good idea to operate a one-and-a-half-ton death machine when you can’t see straight.

I also don’t think it’s a good idea to drive when you can’t stop yourself from exceeding the speed limit. Or when you can’t remember that a red light means “stop.” Or when you think it’s OK to tailgate or cut somebody off because you’ve decided they’re in your way.

Basically, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be on the road in a car if you think you have a god-given right to get where you’re going as fast as possible with as little interference as possible from lights, road signs, pedestrians, weather, other cars, etc.

And yet, this is exactly what millions of us do, every day.

And as a result, about 120 of us die in traffic accidents, every day.

The carnage on our roads is the biggest public-health scandal of our time. And yet, we continue to design our environment to accommodate even more driving. And our automobile-centrism breeds ever-more aggressive and arrogant drivers.

Alcohol is not a factor in a majority of fatal traffic accidents. And even when it is a factor, often there are others—like speeding. And yet, if you talk to Mothers Against Drunk Driving or Students Against Destructive Decisions, or visit their Web sites, nary a peep about speeding (a big problem, especially among young people) or other dangerous driving habits. The message: If only we can stop drunk driving, the roads will be safe.

My message: You’re dead wrong. Drunk driving is the tip of the iceberg. Driving itself is unsafe—and we’re so addicted to it, and so indoctrinated to automobile culture, that we don’t have the will to acknowledge and change it. And groups like MADD and SADD deflect our attention from the more serious underlying problem. But hey, if you don’t believe that MADD (intentionally or otherwise) is doing someone’s dirty work, look at the organization’s biggest donors: automakers, oil and insurance companies. They know what’s good for business.

I'm not sure I agree about MADD and SADD being harmful to the cause of greater safety (I'm not saying I disagree, I just don't have an opinion); what is true, however, is that even without drunk driving, the frequency with which people are killed or seriously injured in automobile accidents is unacceptable. It is also a problem that is by and large ignored by government, media, and the public. It's hard to believe that we are so willing to tolerate so many lives cut short.

Anyone who's lived through or witnessed the death of a young person in a car accident knows that this is an infinitely tragic event, and the fact that more isn't done to prevent such incidents does not speak well of our society.

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