Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hit and Runs are More than Merely Rude, Drive-thrus and Emissions: Mystifying the Autoism

Yesterday the paper churned a press release from an auto insurer into a whimsical piece on rudeness. Probably it just maintains the jocular tone of the press release, but it also maintains our unseriousness about driving.

Politeness? or Hazardous? - via Twitter

From the SJ:

A national auto insurance comparison website has decided Salem has the rudest drivers in Oregon....

Insurify, a website to compare auto insurance rates, based its ranking on analysis of about four million car insurance applications. The applications require drivers to disclose their city of residence and any prior driving violations. The analysis looked specifically at failure to yield violations, failure to stop violations, improper backing, passing where prohibited, tailgating, street racing and hit-and-runs.

But are we really talking about rudeness? Or are we talking about kinds of dangerous driving with potentially lethal outcomes?

By focusing on politeness and humor and resolving safety down to individual character, we miss out on structural elements like road design; car advertising (professional driver on closed course, do not try at home, etc.); car design with phones, video screens, bigger and bigger engines; all the cultural and political expressions of our autoism.

We miss the ways our ostensibly desired "polite" driving behavior is not in alignment with all the other driving incentives. Our 85th percentile speeds alone testify to this.

And we just plain miss its dangers. The paper should do more to "connect the dots."

"Most dangerous activity" (2015)

Separately this week, the media have been full of hype for what looks on the surface like it might be a great story of local entrepreneurs making it big time. But this also is another instance of disconnected dots.

Hyping the drive-thru coffee shack

The hype misses badly on the emissions and social cost of the drive-thru model, and the odds that the model will not be appropriate for our climate future. (And the extent to which the firm may now fight against climate action.)

Remember the irony from a year ago?

The drive-thru coffee shack, and whole drive-thru model for retail and food, is something that induces car travel and something we need to think about more critically, no matter how popular it might be.

Postscript, Thursday

What a world