When is Enough…Enough?

[Re-posted  from Minneapolize.com.]

Two nights ago while returning from a day trip to Little Falls – to talk cycling infrastructure and destination cycling. I returned to the Twin Cities to find 694 closed in one of the “Brooklyns” where 694 meets 94. There was apparently a fatal accident caused when the deceased re-entered the lane of traffic after driving on the shoulder. Apparently as she merged she struck the back of a semi trailer which was stopped. As i drove by on 94, I could see the extent of the damage to her SUV and it looked as though it was a high speed crash.

Then in the online version of the Star Tribune this morning, I read the following headlines:

“Hit-and-run driver drags Army recruiter under vehicle for nearly a mile.” (there was another Army recruiter – a pedestrian also – struck in the same incident.)

“Pickup runs stop sign near Princeton, kills teen in collision with car.”

This is just today. And only in Minnesota.

For those who follow Minneapolize, you’ve read about my questions regarding the outrage of the carnage on our roads.


The attack on the WTC resulted in a $3 trillion (and counting) war in Iraq, untold expenses in Pakistan and Afghanistan and an unprecedented erosion of our civil liberties. And on and on.

Yet we seem to be ok with the continued, unabated, carnage on our streets and highways. Are there solutions? Yes. Many of the related to education, and also technical solutions.

Some of the cheapest? Create mad bicycle infrastructure so that the 60%+ of Americans who say they would ride their bikes more if they felt safe doing so could ride. This is a cheap and easy (well easier) solution.

Install accelerometers into new cars that would prevent them from acting unsafe. Can’t leave the highway without slowing significantly, can’t speed. Install breathalyzers. Drunk? Car won’t start, sorry.

Install hit-and-run technology to more easily apprehend offenders.

There are more and the tech industry will be delighted to innovate.

Afraid this is sounding like the nanny state? Removing some of our basic freedoms…like killing people with our cars?

Before you hit the comment button to flame us, take a deep breath and count to 3 trillion.


Tony Desnick

About Tony Desnick

Tony Desnick is an architect, urban designer, and bicycle activist. He has worked in the bike share industry since 2013. He has ridden a bike for the last 56 years and commutes year 'round by bike today. He serves several local and int'l non-profit boards of directors. In May 2016, he presented a TEDx talk about how bicycles can change us and our communities. It can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTT7i3SKpMQ

16 thoughts on “When is Enough…Enough?

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Yes (mostly)!. IIRC, the average cost of each crash in the U.S. is about $11k (not counting time missed from work). Times the approx 11 million crashes each year, that’s a lot of money wasted (though my body shop owning buddy might disagree with the wasted part). Far worse, someone in the U.S. is about 3 to 4 times as likely to be killed in a crash (and I think something like 7 times as likely to be in a crash) as someone in The Netherlands, Denmark, or Sweden. And we view ourselves as advanced?

    However, … How does your accelerometer handle passing someone on a two-lane rural road?

    1. Mike

      Advanced has nothing to do with it.

      US is bigger. The distance that will take you coast to coast in those countries won’t take you out of a single state in much of the US.

      US has vastly more population than any of those countries. More people, more cars.

      The size also makes for more room and population spread thinner.

      Then there is the type of housing. People in Europe mostly rent apartments. People in US own houses. Moving with the job is a lot easier.

      It doesn’t make sense to make direct comparisons between US and Europe. They are too different to blindly copy one another.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Mike, I should have been more specific. In saying that someone is 3 – 4 times as likely to be killed in a crash I was implying ‘per capita’, not absolute numbers. In the U.S. about 15 people per every 100,000 are killed each year, in northern Europe it’s about 4 or 5 people per 100,000 (WHO data, 2011). Much of the difference is likely transport mode (more bicycles, walking, transit) and safer driving habits on motorways.

        You are correct though that they drive less (not just because their countries are smaller and that they can more easily move closer to where they work as you pointed out, but also because of alternate modes such as bicycles). If you look at fatalities per billion km driven though, we’re still about twice as likely to die for each mile we drive as they for each mile they drive.

        1. Mike

          The wide spread of alternate modes is made possible by those conditions. Bicycles rule the short distances. It’s really pretty simple – if I rode a bicycle instead of my motorcycle to work it would make my commute 2 hours instead of 30 minutes. I checked. I don’t really want to take that much time out of my day. Public transport goes hand in hand with high population densities.

    1. Tony DesnickTony Desnick Post author

      I had read the 32,000 number as 33,000 elsewhere. I just did the math wrong. I will make the edit (if I can).

  2. Alex

    I’ve pondered the “When is enough…enough?” question a great deal and I truly believe it comes down to the perceived necessity of the car. Many people in the US see cars as being essential to mobility. When something is seen as essential to life, people are much more willing to accept the negative consequences that come with it. “These car crashes are terrible, but what are we supposed to do? Not drive!?” The notion extends deeply enough that even making driving less convenient in the name of safety becomes an outrageous proposition. I remember reading a comment on an article about cars not stopping for a pedestrian crossing that had been added somewhere in the Minneapolis suburbs. A woman incredulously stated, “Think of all the cars that crosswalk is slowing down!” as if the motorists’ time was inherently and obviously more valuable than the safety of the pedestrians. So the conventional wisdom is that we have to drive to get around and, unfortunately, some bad things will happen as part of that and there’s not a lot we can do about it.

    The other thing this perceived necessity of cars does is it excuses bad driving. Taking away a person’s driver’s license is seen as taking away their freedom and condemning them to house arrest. So the bar for revoking someone’s license is very, very high. “Why should we punish them so harshly just because they’re a bad driver?” That extends to car crashes, especially involving pedestrians and cyclists. “That driver was just trying to get to their important business and hitting that person in the crosswalk was an accident and any one of us could make the same mistake.”

    Which brings me to the last part of this perception. People empathize with car crashes. Most of us have been involved in a car crash on some level and know how a split second decision can result in a collision. So people see a car wreck and often think, “That could have just as easily been me.” Driving is inherently dangerous. Even if people don’t admit that outright, they know it intrinsically and that small slip ups can result in deadly consequences.

    All this culminates in an acceptance of crashes, empathy for bad or dangerous drivers, and the tendency to allow them to continue to drive. Places that have alternatives to driving will start to chip away at these notions. But even here in NYC where driving is strictly option for most people, this acceptance of traffic violence is rampant. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we can do it.

  3. Shaun

    Can you cite the 3,000/9 days figure? I can’t reproduce it. That’s over 120,000 deaths per year, more than 4 times the US annual amount for all road deaths (highway + otherwise).

  4. Kasia McMahonKasia

    Completely agree. Our attitude towards cars is crazy. I have read of several accidents (like the bicyclist killed in Uptown) where the driver had a suspended license due to multiple violations. But why are they allowed to have a car? Shouldn’t it be impounded? Why aren’t there harsher punishments for drunk drivers, 3 and you lose the right to drive–for life. We spend a lot of money educating and caring for our citizens, and then someone just goes “whoops,” and then our society basically says, “whoa, you just killed someone with your car! We will fine you and put you in jail, but we will never take away your car!”

    1. Mike

      Are you sure they were allowed to keep it? Could’ve been a borrowed car, or one the guy bought after having his license suspended.

  5. Nathaniel M Hood

    Caligula – If you have honest recommendations and critical feedback it would be very much appreciated. Taking repetitive shots at St. Paul is counter-productive. I understand you may enjoy irking some here in the comments section, but if you really wanted to make a difference, I would recommend constructive criticism. Otherwise, you’ll be ignored. Best -Nate

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