If only that headline were exaggerating. However, in his anti-car post on Publicola, Dan Bertolet points out that cars are the leading cause of death among American children:
This is one reason I hate cars (but not the only one): They kill and maim an insanely high number of innocent people, and are a constant threat to those who are simply trying to exist peacefully on planet Earth. They are especially dangerous for children—in the U.S., car accidents are the leading cause of death among children. Every parent instinctively knows this and it is a relentless source of stress.
But check this out this amazing stat: A recent study found that “children die in traffic accidents in New York City at less than one third the national rate, due to New Yorkers’ high reliance on public transportation.” Put another way, the average child in the U.S. is more than three times as likely to die in an auto accident than is a child living in New York City. Because people drive less in New York. Wow.
Now I am going to shock you all: I also hate cars. I also value a good rant against them. It’s healthy to get it out. Car culture is a system of insanity, and it forces good people to become sociopaths:
You might think that the evidence of how cars slaughter our children would be in itself a powerful motivation to create urban places that don’t require incessant driving. But you would, of course, be wrong. Because most Americans don’t think rationally when it comes to the ugly side of cars.
And that leads to another reason I hate cars: They bring out the worst in people. Something about being inside that isolating, protective cocoon has the power to transform otherwise calm, polite people into raging psychos. But even deeper than that, when we so willingly buy into a system that trivializes the value of human life, we are dehumanized.
However, I also understand that many (though probably not most) drivers do not really have a choice about whether to drive a car. They have work to do, responsibilities to families, bills to pay, etc., and our cities are still set up assuming you have a car. Unless you live within a good distance to public transit that goes to your work place, you could very well not have a choice. If you have knee problems or other issues that prevent you from riding a bike comfortably, you might have to drive to make ends meet. This is a reality.
But imagine our city if the only people driving were the people who honestly and truly need that car. We would not be talking about a deep bore car tunnel, we would not be freaking out about the (unfunded) 520 interchanges destroying the Montlake neighborhood, and we could have pedestrian crossings across highway 99.
How much light rail could we build with the money being spent on the deep bore tunnel? I’m no engineer, but I bet we could have light rail stations in West Seattle for $4 billion (before overruns). There would be less noise, less pollution and fewer bike injuries and deaths. A huge portion of our population would find it safe and fun to ride a bicycle, which would encourage a healthier and more engaged citizenry.
Perhaps this is too utopian for a lot of people. But it never hurts to dream big.