What is the true price of our dependence on automobiles? Those in favor of pedestrian-oriented planning say repeatedly that a large contribution to our automobile economy is the cost of driving is simple too cheap. Although gas prices continually rise, they still lack to reflect the current amount of resources we have, and the impact carbon emissions and automobile infrastructure have on the environment. But what about the price we are paying from the physical lives automobiles take every year? A first glance at the 2011 crash statistics might cause one to think these statistics are almost ‘expected’ from a state population in which over 4 million residents own a drivers license (2011 data), however we must take a closer look at how many additional injuries automobiles cause, and the cost that results from these traffic fatalities.
The report, “Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2011” outlines many of the factors affecting driving fatalities, among them include:
- Age of driver;
- Presence of alcohol;
- Weather conditions;
- Design of roadway;
- Use of safety belt;
- Distraction of driver, and;
- Engineering and design standards of vehicle performance.
While I found that much of this report was focused on external factors of crashes, and strayed from our dependence on automobile transportation, one portion of the report was blunt concerning our current lifestyle:
“The necessity of getting from one place to another and the efficiency of motor vehicles for this purpose result in significant costs to society. The National Safety Council reports that crashes (from all causes) are the leading cause of death among persons aged 1 to 34 and the fifth leading cause of death among all persons.”
-Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The American culture is one who places extreme emphasis on protecting the welfare of our citizens. We dedicate billions for research of cancer and disease. Some willingly send themselves overseas to fight for our freedom. For an industry that has such an impact on the lifespan of our residents, we should place a deep concern on creating innovative alternates to a transportation mode that has a label of a leading cause of death. Transportation should be a cause of joy, bringing us to new places and connecting us with old friends. Death, and joy. We as planners, engineers, designers, and activists have the potential to make this differentiation.
Tables by Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Data linked to sources.