Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cartoon about Car Violence might Mask more Serious Questions

Did you see the odd "car violence" editorial cartoon in the paper the other day?

Its primary target is the Seattle tax on guns and ammo.

But more interesting here is the notion of "car violence."

The terms of the comparison are not clear. If hybrids and electrics are exempt, then maybe it's making fun of carbon reduction and calling carbon emission by hyperbole "car violence" - though of course emissions do in some sense harm the planet as our existing ecosystems are constructed.

But of course a more obvious sense for "car violence" is the too-frequent result of car crash.

We know, in fact, that deaths by car and deaths by gun are right about the same, a little over 30,000 a year.

And we know that death by motor vehicle is a leading cause of death.
So it's not actually clear that car violence should be dismissed in a joking way.

But because car death has been successfully normalized as "accident," and car death is not often the result of a driver's direct intent to cause violence or harm, we aren't as comfortable talking about car violence and the system of hydraulic autoism that mystifies and even statistically increases its probability.
Here in Salem drivers have struck down and killed six people on foot this year.
Not all of them involved drunk or impaired drivers, but most or all of them involved urban speeds higher than 20mph, and not always in a context that law enforcement considered "speeding."

And we know the costs nationwide are huge, and many of them have been externalized so that the users of cars don't bear the costs of car use and the damages the cars cause.

If the politics of a "car violence" tax seem impossible, even risible as the cartoon suggests, as matter of policy a tax on car violence could be appropriately Pigovian and not so crazy at all.

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