When traffic violence hits home

The Maus family mini-van and the aftermath of Tuesday’s crash on the Marquam Bridge.

I follow every road authority and first responder in the region so I can stay abreast of every reported crash just in case one of them warrants more attention.

On Tuesday, one of these blips on my screen was a crash on I-5 that involved my wife and 15-year-old daughter.

They are fine. We are lucky. And now they understand their dad a bit better.

Everyone in my family knows how much traffic violence weighs on my mind when we’re in the car together. I drive slowly and carefully and I get nervous when others don’t. It’s annoying to everyone — especially my teenagers who roll their eyes and say I’m “obsessed” with safety. I can’t not be, I tell them. I’ve seen too much.

The constant stream of sad and bad news I read every day — mixed with all the stories I’ve written, the crash scenes I’ve visited, the vigils I’ve attended, and all the moms and dads and brothers and sisters of victims I’ve talked with over all these years. It has physically altered my brain.

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When my phone rang yesterday and I heard my girl say, “Dad, we were in a crash on the Marquam Bridge (I-5)” I was calm. Surprisingly so. Maybe because the tone of her voice told me I could be. But I also think — and this unsettles me still — that in some twisted way, I thought, “Yep, I knew this would happen.” The normalization of traffic violence I write and read about at work all the time has infected me so much that I didn’t even freak out when members of my own family where hit from behind at a high speed and spun-around on the top deck of a freeway bridge hundreds of feet above the Willamette River.

I was scared and worried as it sunk in. I teared up a bit when I finally got to hug them. But I can’t shake this thought: That I’ve become a robot without feelings, programmed to expect traffic violence — even when it happens to my own flesh and blood.

The system has no feelings either. With no major injuries and no police response, the system won’t know this ever happened. There will be no investigation of why this man lost control of his car, no consideration of punishment for his actions, and no consideration of how/if the infrastructure played a role.

Just another blip on the screen.

Over breakfast this morning we talked about mundane things like insurance and replacing our van. My wife brought up her disappointment that the guy who hit them never said sorry or checked to make sure they were OK. I ranted a bit about how quickly the well-oiled Auto Industrial Complex kicked into gear and how various interests will gladly profit off the crash.

And then there are nagging questions: What if they were in a smaller car? What if the other guy was in a huge SUV? What if they hit the guardrail and plunged into the river (like this horrible crash a few days ago)? What if they were more seriously injured? Or what if… I don’t even want to think about that.

What I can and will think about are questions I grappled with long before my daughter’s phone call, but that carry even sharper edges today: What if we made it more normal to reject this violent epidemic rather than to accept it? How many lives could we save if we did that? How many lives are acceptable to sacrifice? How many lives in your own family are you willing to sacrifice?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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CaptainKarma
1 year ago

Before the pandemic, I was ramping up on train and bus riding, counting on the laws of physics to help me survive better. Hope we can return to that sooner than later.

eawriste
eawriste
1 year ago

Glad you guys are ok.

PTB
PTB
1 year ago

The dude in the red BMW wasn’t remorseful or concerned for the well being of others?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

I am shocked. Shocked I tell you.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Regarding the attitude of the other driver – I think it’s more of an overarching Societal thing than strictly a driver thing. Back in the day when I was considering a PhD (30 years ag0), the idea I had for a thesis was to apply Socio-biological concepts to Urban Planning to see if our land use planning methods (especially zoning) had contributed to a change in individual values and societal Ethos. Like “have we gotten more selfish/less empathetic as a result of less direct contact with others as a result of zoning policies”.

Despite not going that route, I think I know what my conclusion would have been.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

As I age I have gradually stopped believing in the crap that I used to believe in when I was in school working on my planning degree in my 20s. Instead, I now believe in lots of other crap.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Ye, me too. And most of what I see keeps pointing back to the issue that our normal behavior is that we are inherently selfish Apes acting in our own best interests.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Actually I’ve gotten more interested in pushing items in the public interest as I’ve gotten older, especially after the age of 30, rather than those related to my personal self-interest – I find it more satisfying if I have success in my advocacy of course, but even honorable failure has its allure.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Agreed. I think (hope?) I’ve become a lot less selfish and self-centered than I was in my 20s. Volunteer way more now than I did then.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Ah, but no doubt you probably get some sense of value or worth out of it…so still a selfish (albeit good) behavior. Not all selfish behavior is deleterious…and some can in fact benefit others.

I like growing tomatoes – more than I can ever eat. I like the process and I like giving them away because it makes me feel good. It’s still selfish.

Matt
Matt
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

A car looking just like that one passed me, at high speed, across a double yellow line, on Holgate Blvd a couple months ago. I guess he took exception to my driving at the speed limit of 25 mph. Pretty uncommon car, so I strongly suspect this is the same car with the same idiot driver. I should really get a dashcam…

bendite
bendite
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

As a BMW owner myself, I’m here to right the wrongs of past BMW drivers.

Ted
Ted
1 year ago

Glad everyone is ok. Most insurers recommend not saying anything that would be an admission of fault (e.g., “I’m sorry”), but everyone should check to make sure everyone else is ok.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Ted

Not admitting fault when you know you are at fault still makes you a bad person. Any amount of BS that you or your insurance company puts a victim through is your fault at that point. Completely unethical and it’s so frustrating that it has somehow become culturally acceptable to lie and deceive.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

The same could be said for admitting guilt when you committed a crime. By pleading “not guilty” you are icing your criminality cake with a thick layer of being a bad person frosting.

What this society needs is better people and different kinds of cake.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

We are in agreement. There is a profound lack of personal integrity nowadays.

You know my sentiments about hit-and-run drivers – they are the worst of the worst.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

You obviously have never been in a serious automobile crash. I was a Private Investigator and an Insurance Claims Adjustor. When a person is in a major hit, he/she most of the time has no idea what the heck happened. It is amazing the chain of events that are involved in most accidents. Also, people are traumatized. Checking to see if others are OK, sure, but apologizing when you don’t know what happened is asking a bit much. Judge not…..

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

But Chris wrote, “Not admitting fault WHEN YOU KNOW you are at fault…”, which is a different situation than when someone really doesn’t know what happened.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

He could not possibly ‘know’ what the other guy knew.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

He didn’t say he did. I took it as a general statement about people who do know, which is exactly how he wrote it.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Like qqq said, Chris I assumed nothing of anybody, but instead posed a hypothetical situation.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

This was not a serious automobile crash. You’re inventing things to be mad about here.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 year ago

First off, I am genuinely happy to hear that your wife and daughter are fine following this unfortunate incident. Objects are replaceable, the other driver’s insurance will be paying for any damages based on the photos, and the truly important treasures in your life are still in your life.

This is clearly an upsetting experience for you. I submit that your reaction when your daughter called was both appropriate and mature. That is not robotic nor cold. It is a rational response. You were being strong, calm, level headed, and ready to offer assistance and comfort to your family in a crisis. That is far superior to having an emotional meltdown and potentially escalating any fears being experienced on the other end of that call. I also commend your young daughter for her apparent cool reserve in that moment.

I will respectfully take umbrage with a couple of things. I know that you abhor the term “accident”, but “traffic violence” is an unnecessarily inflammatory phrase without evidence or context. Nothing in your account suggests malice or gross negligence on the part of the other driver. He most assuredly made mistakes but, the phrase makes this seem like a pre-meditated act targeting your loved ones. I agree with you that serious steps must be taken to make our roads safer however, I am as uncomfortable with the usage of this phrase just as I would be with someone labeling a protest as a “violent riot” because a lone individual tagged a building or threw an object at police. It doesn’t help the situation and just galvanizes people into entrenched factions unwilling to speak to the other side. Bike Portland has always been a great place to exchange ideas and respectfully debate policies. This turns it into Fox News and characterizes an unfortunate non-injury traffic incident as a sinister assault on bicycles, alternative transportation, and families.

This also leads me to your commentary regarding the Auto Industrial Complex and your notion that it is some unfeeling monster spreading an epidemic of violence. My goodness! That sounds like the rantings of a collegiate freshman in the midst of their first political science class. Again, I feel that this is unnecessarily divisive. Auto manufacturing and auto insurance are industries with business models. Law enforcement and government transportation agencies are bureaucracies concerned with meeting their charter obligations. Both, by their very natures, are amoral. They are not in the business of good vs. evil. They are simply trying to meet their respective missions of profitability, accountability, and progress. How they operate is certainly open to debate and that debate should be engaged. Do you really think that someone sits in an office at BMW designing ways to make cars deadlier? That teams working at PBOT, ODOT, and the federal DOT scheme to create more traffic fatalities and injuries? That is an absurd notion! We all want positive change to come faster than it does but, there is no cabal of ghouls at these companies and agencies rooting for more death and property damage.

Nothing is or will ever be 100% safe. We can certainly try to lessen the bad odds through better behaviors and policies but, our world is chock full of random events beyond our control. You are right to be concerned and even a bit frightened, Jonathan. You also see more destruction than the average person in your line of work. Just don’t become so wrapped up in “what ifs?” and fear that you lose perspective. Don’t marginalize your own work and advocacy with emotionally charged buzzwords and phrases that are off putting to those people we need to bring to our side. Remember “Defund the Police”? Many of us knew exactly what that meant – reallocate resources for mental health intervention, stop sending untrained cops to mental health crisis calls. To the less aware public and, thanks to demagogues, that became defined as “firing cops for no good reason”. Words matter but, painting the act of driving as a perpetration of violence and entire industries as inherently evil only delays positive progress and threatens to make potential allies into sworn enemies.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago

Doesn’t “crash” evoke the same loudness and disorientation of the incident with less inflammatory, and, arguably, more accurate language? I know you can parse “violence” and defend it as accurate, but using “violence” in association with people almost always suggests intentionality. When most people hear it they’re going to think of road rage, which, from your description, this wasn’t.

I think the same reasons you prefer “crash” to “accident” would argue against “traffic violence”.

I’m not trying to police your language, but it would do great harm if we made traffic safety into another pointless political battlefield.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Breaking things on purpose isn’t violence (it’s protest!), but unintentional breaking of things is.

soren
soren
1 year ago

IMO, the term “traffic violence” also obfuscates agency. I hope we can agree that the BMW and minivan had no agency and that the driver was the agent. This was violence by a person driving.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

To me, it implies agency, more so than crash etc. And yes I think we can all agree the driver was the agent.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

Agency in inanimate objects?

traf·fic /ˈtrafik/: vehicles moving on a road or public highway.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

Considering most traffic requires human input, I’d say “traffic violence” doesn’t necessarily obfuscate agency despite it less clearly emphasizing personal agency like the phrase “violence by a person driving”.

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

“emphasizing personal agency”

The personal should be political but in the USA we prefer to point fingers at the “other”* instead of acknowledging that Fordist personal choice is one of the pillars of automobile capitalism (and its horrific negative externalities).

*pick a scapegoat based on truncated USAnian political spectrum

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

I’m with you there – in my opinion, the personal is political whether or not anyone chooses to acknowledge so. I’m too tired and dumb to explain why, though.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Looking at the pictures of a wet street, on a bridge that freezes before other surfaces do, in 40 degrees, I’d say is a recipe for more crashes and fender benders at any speed. When vehicles hydroplane, which they often do in such conditions, brakes are less useful when everyone is going at the speed limit or above. The fact that everyone was able to “walk away” from the crash without serious injuries tells me that most drivers were moving at a lower speed than they usually do, that no one is really at fault (even as they look for someone to blame).

Shit happens. It’s time to forgive and move on.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

BS. I was driving in this same area on Tuesday, and the roads were fine. No excuse here other than distraction and/or speed.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

The road is wet, but I noticed one other thing. The guy hit her with his left front obviously. But, he also has damage on his left rear. That tells me that the wreck was more complicated than a simple rear-end. The damage to both pictured vehicles is not indicative of a straight rear-end crash. I used to be a PI and accident investigator and I loved figuring these things out. I would like to hear the BMW driver’s version, because, so far, we have only heard a second-hand Maus version. I would give about 10% credibility to any second-hand spouse version of any wreck. I would love it if Jonathan gave us updates on the the insurance and investigatory aspects of this wreck.

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

This is absurd justification. Unless the first driver makes erratic lane changes, cutting the following driver off, the driver that rear ends another car is categorically at fault. They we’re driving too close for the conditions if they can’t stop in time.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve C

You hit the nail on the head. The pictures could just as easily been the result of an unsafe lane change by the van driver. Odysseys are well known for poor visability. I have no idea what really happened: that would take multiple interviews, looking at the black boxes, and best of all, video. There definitely was a police report. I hope JM shares it with us.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Driving in a way that would put you at fault for a crash here is so common, you can see it several times on even a short freeway trip. Tailgating, sudden lane changing, no signaling, speeding, texting…

When a driver crashes their car into someone in front of them, I think the likelihood they are at fault is high, bad weather conditions or not.

Drs
Drs
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

You are giving a huge amount of credit to the person who was driving the BMW. Seems like a likely explanation for the crash is that the driver was traveling at an unsafe speed relative to the surrounding traffic. They attempted to pass the van incautiously and causeda wreck. Very high probability that this crash was due to negligence or recklessness on the part of the person who was driving the BMW. The forgive and forget attitude toward vehicular violence is exactly how we get intoa situation where 30-40K Americans are killed in motor vehicle crashes each year. Most of those crashes are avoidable. Countries that have stronger enforcement of traffic laws have much lower crash rates per vmt.

Steve
1 year ago

I would argue that the excessive use of often hyperbolic language leads to words like “violence” “harm” “racism” etc to losing much of their power. Which is obviously counterproductive.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago

I agree that it’s hard to be a “big tent” person when you constantly say that driving is inherently violent. You’re going to turn off a LOT of people who are just trying to go about their life getting around. For most of those people, they don’t view driving as much of a choice, and essentially telling them they’re all “violent” just for driving is likely not going to draw a lot of people to your big tent.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago

So, you think that your wife was commiting an inherently violent act? How is she with that reaction? I would love to hear from her. When I go out driving, my mindset is to avoid violence/crashes at all cost. I put myself into a Buddhist-meld frame of mind. In other words, my intention is to flow through traffic creating the minimum of upset to other drivers and myself. I don’t always succeed, but that is my intent.

PS
PS
1 year ago

I think you’re onto something with “words matter”. They do, and just like “defund the police” which will go down as the least thought about use of words maybe ever, this is pretty awful. As an adjective violence is “characterized by uncontrolled, strong, rough force”. In its typical setting traffic is literally none of those things. You can have a violent earthquake, but by itself the ground is not violent. Further, does this mean that pilots are inherently committing violent acts by flying planes? By your standard, flying must be much worse than driving, because it is not often a car crash ends up in the occupants being turned into pink mist, which in planes is just about what happens.

I get you’ve ruminated on it at length, but in contrast to the wokeness these days, that doesn’t mean everyone else has to accept it. Regardless of your daily consumption of accidents, it is a statistical reality that the last decade has been the least deaths by vehicles in any decade since the car was invented, both by per capita and by vehicle miles traveled. Injuries as a result have gone up as things that used to kill people, don’t, they end up surviving. This is of course in light of the wave of your hated SUV’s and pickup trucks, which is a hill I would be cautious about dying on as your Honda Odyssey weighs about as much as a Ford F150 and only a few hundred pounds lighter than a Ford Expedition.

So, maybe your wife is like the many others out here who acknowledge that there is risk in absolutely everything we do and to see improvements in vehicular deaths means something right is happening. We also acknowledge that far more should be done for the safety of pedestrians, starting with enforcement of driving laws, but we should not denigrate a driver for hitting a pedestrian crossing a highway in the night dressed in all black. To think of the trauma that person has to have experienced knowing they killed someone and then have people pile on top that they should have been able to do something differently is absurd. If that is the path we’re headed down, you’re going to lose people who would otherwise be with you because the standard is ridiculous and unachievable in anything approximating the real world.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago

The reality is that everything we do as human beings could be defined as ‘violent’ or ‘harmful’ with your criteria. Breathing, walking etc harm some tiny organisms. There is an Indian religion, Jainism, which acknowledges this, and tries to minimize harm (always wearing a mask), but the reality is that you cannot exist as a human being without doing ‘harm’. Using incendiary language, and shaming, does not make us a better society. I appreciate that your wife acknowledges her role, but I will not view her as a violent person. btw you have no idea what I was thinking when I made that comment. I said, or implied nothing, about your motivation.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Perhaps folks only find the language incendiary because they believe we humans can exist without causing harm.

I don’t believe JM has called his wife violent, and don’t get the sense he is shaming anyone, but acknowledge I can overlook many things.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

He admitted that his wife commited an inherently violent act in his response to me, so if that is not saying his wife is violent, I don’t know what is. btw I do not know his wife, but I would not ascribe violence to anything that was described in the report. I guess I am just less flamboyant in my language, because….words matter.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Calling a person violent is different from calling an act they do violent. Maybe that’s the distinction you’ve missed.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

We need a semanticist or logician to discern if a person can commit and inherently violent act, without being a violent person. I think it is a logical impossiblity, but I would love to hear from those more versed in grammar and logic.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Or a coroner, since suggesting bringing in a semanticist or logician is a good sign the wording issue has been argued to death.

Steve Scarich
Steve Scarich
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

Yeah, even as I was typing that, I was thinking the same thing. But, couldn’t stop myself.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Scarich

Someone is violent when they commit violent acts, but not violent in the moments they are not committing violent acts. Calling someone violent is to generalize a person’s actions, whereas calling an action they do violent does not generalize them as violent.

marisheba
marisheba
1 year ago

When you think about people that you are trying to convince, do you think that “traffic violence” and “all driving is inherently violent” is likely to broaden understanding, or put people off to where they aren’t hearing what you’re trying to say? I’m far closer to agreeing with you than not, and yet your language is really off-putting to me and a lot of readers of this blog; I suspect it’s far moreso to others.

Meanwhile, instead of arguing about useful things (ie what do to about dangerous roads), here we are arguing about language, and I’m not sure what that accopmlishes.

I believe an article like this would carry its point more successfully (to people who don’t already agree with you) if it used commonly accepted meanings and understandings of words (i.e. “crash”, “trauma”, etc), while highlighting the risks, dangers, and potential consequences. Sidestep ultimately irrelevant questions about whether “violence” is the appropriate term.

Real glad everyone’s okay though, what a crappy, scary experience.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  marisheba

Despite my agreeing with JM, I upvoted your comment here. Would you please explain why his language here is off-putting to you? I suspect ego-induced self defense could underlie many who have little choice but to drive who find that language off-putting. I suspect many could find it off-putting based on ideas of journalistic integrity. And more reasons if I thought a bit longer. So I ask to get a known reason, and possibly one that may expand my understanding of this whole situation.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

Not speaking for marisheba, the language is off-putting to me because I think it sounds hyperbolic and alienating, helping politicize a serious issue that would really benefit from remaining non-partisan.

caleb
caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Thanks for sharing your personal perspective.

In response to hyperbolic, what do you believe he exaggerates? You’ve made clear you primarily associate intention with the word “violence”, and disagree with how he uses the word in the lens of that 3rd definition he mentioned. In that regard, you finding his language hyperbolic looks to me like projection of your paradigm upon him.

In response to alienating, do you mean you feel alienated and/or that you feel others are alienated by his language? Similar to the previous question, I ask from a sense that, because you’re still commenting on this site without overt hostility, that you are not alienated.

Lastly, in what way does his language politicize any related issue? Given your mention of “non-partisan”, I ask that question in the context of parties, as in, how does his language put related issues in one party’s camp over that of any other? I didn’t think any particular party has any inherent attachment or detachment to injury and death in our public rights of way.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  caleb

My comment was made with the “general public” in mind. Finding ways to convince and/or remind people that vehicle casualties are something we should take seriously is critical to arriving at a solution, whether that be more resources for reengineering roadways, new vehicle safety standards, or whatever.

I believe that using the word violence to describe vehicle crashes would sound hyperbolic and off-putting to the people we need to convince (i.e. the general public), and therefore adopting that language makes our task more difficult while offering little benefit in return.

While the repurposing of language to frame an issue is not limited to those of any political persuasion, this particular phrase sounds to my ear like a very “lefty” thing, which is why I think it would be perceived as being political.

Your judgment may differ, but that is my thinking. If I start hearing “regular people” (or even a few conservatives) use the phrase, I may change my mind.

I will say I am coming to terms with the semantic argument, and feel just a touch more accepting than I did at the beginning of this conversation.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Thanks for explaining.

I agree much potential exists for the general public to find describing crashes with “violence” hyperbolic and off-putting, and therefore also that using such language has much potential to make that convincing more difficult while providing little benefit. Thinking about the SJW pejorative, as if anyone is outright opposed to justice itself, I also agree many would likely consider “traffic violence” a “lefty” thing.

Even so, I suggest neither is reason to avoid that language when talking among allies who already believe vehicle casualties are something we should take seriously, though they are reason to very carefully make the case for such language to the general public.

Considering you didn’t say you feel alienated or state anything JM has exaggerated, your response has not been like the general public response you explained and aim to avoid. I believe even much of the general public could respond in similar ways as you and others here not absolutely opposed to the language if they received certain arguments presented in certain ways.

For example, I wonder how many commenters here might have reacted differently if JM’s words were not in text form upon which anyone can project any emotional motivation and/or target, but were instead in audio or video form with him speaking in a calm, poignant, genuine way, one that evokes focus on the damage rather than any blame.

I feel like much more could be said here, but I’ve gotta get back to work.

Bikeninja
Bikeninja
1 year ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

I would agree with Jonathan that the words “Traffic Violence” is appropriate. This is based on what I will define as a baseline for safety. In the world of workplace safety the owner of the workplace is expected to provide a situation where only examples of extreme negligence or malicious intent will create significant injuries. So a dangerous press must have a safety door that prevents it from operating when someones hands are inside.It must keep them safe weather they are careful or not. When our current system of automobile transportation evolved we decided ( or choose to ignore) such a “safety first” rational and instead went with a system that relies on a very delicate balance of control and care where the slightest gap in attention, or a wrong move can lead to injury or death to the person involved and others on the road. If our current system of roads, intersections and traffic laws were scrutinized ,in the same way a workplace is during an inspection, the entire thing would be closed down and the owner would not only be fined but would probably go to prison for negligence and endangerment. We only view the current system as ok ( or non-violent) because it has been normalized by society, but that does not make it sensible or neutral. If one was to go back in time and ask a citizen of 1890’s Paris, or Elizabethan London, or Feudal Japan if they thought of a future, where if they crossed a road without careful scrutiny of the situation in both directions they could be killed instantly by a stranger with little or no recourse, that such a thing would be ok, or civilized they would be horrified. The worst part is that we have so spread and enshrined this system so that it has become what Ivan Illich termed.” a radical monopoly.” Which means that users are excluded from society without access to its product. So while it seems shocking to some to call this “radical monopoly” of death and destruction “violent” it is the only way to pull back the curtains and view things as they really are.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Bikeninja

Ah, the good old days.

Our current system of automobile transportation evolved from an even more dangerous and hazardous one. Anyone living in a large urban area in the 1890s would have faced the same danger from crossing streets as we do today, but they would no doubt marvel at how easy, fast, cheap, and safe it has become to travel even long distances.

https://www.accessmagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/07/Access-30-02-Horse-Power.pdf

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

I sure wouldn’t want to be run over by a horse and buggy! Those horse shoes are deadly!
{disclaimer}
No offence to any horses out there.
{/disclaimer}

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Great article!

Horses killed in other, more direct ways as well. As difficult as it may be to believe given their low speeds, horse-drawn vehicles were far deadlier than their modern counterparts. In New York in 1900, 200 persons were killed by horses and horse-drawn vehicles. This contrasts with 344 auto-related fatalities in New York in 2003; given the modern city’s greater population, this means the fatality rate per capita in the horse era was roughly 75 percent higher than today. Data from Chicago show that in 1916 there were 16.9 horse-related fatalities for each 10,000 horse-drawn vehicles; this is nearly seven times the city’s fatality rate per auto in 1997.

The reason is that horse-drawn vehicles have an engine with a mind of its own. The skittishness of horses added a dangerous level of unpredictability to nineteenth-century transportation. This was particularly true in a bustling urban environment, full of surprises that could shock and spook the animals. Horses often stampeded, but a more common danger came from horses kicking, biting, or trampling bystanders. Children were particularly at risk.

Now imagine if robot cars using AI became a bit like horses…

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Thank goodness we got automobiles to replace those dangerous polluting horses . . . oh wait a minute . . .

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

The pollution from horses was awful; both from the obvious sources, which attracted flies, got on peoples’ clothes, and got in the air after it dried, and also from all the dead horses that were left on the street. Read the article I linked above.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

I vote for Bikeninja to get the comment of the week. The rest of you who are trying to draw a false equivalence between horses and modern automobiles are engaging in a kind of dangerous horseplay.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

I did not mean to draw an equivalence; I am saying modern cars are much better from a safety and localized pollution standpoint.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

Not a false equivalence, we’re saying that the thing bikeninja described; “If one was to go back in time and ask a citizen of 1890’s Paris, or Elizabethan London, or Feudal Japan if they thought of a future, where if they crossed a road without careful scrutiny of the situation in both directions they could be killed instantly by a stranger with little or no recourse, that such a thing would be ok, or civilized they would be horrified.”
DID happen often in the 1890’s.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Agreed. I don’t want to downplay issues with auto transport, but there have always been dangers in transportation:

“It concludes that the dangers of automobile use are substantially lower than the dangers posed by early horse-driven and steam-driven transportation methods, especially in terms of fatalities per mile. It finds that on a per-mile or per-trip basis, automobile travel is safer than virtually any other means of travel used popularly in U.S. history, and that the other contributions of automobile transportation have been seriously overlooked by transportation scholars.”

https://www.jstor.org/stable/27739679?seq=1

soren
soren
1 year ago
Reply to  SERider

“automobile travel is safer than virtually any other means of travel used popularly in U.S. history”

“per mile … basis”

i guess that buses, trains, airplanes, and passenger/ferry boats are not “popular” enough to displace the auto-supremacy of the car — erm, sorry — SUV.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

“I know that you abhor the term “accident”, but “traffic violence” is an unnecessarily inflammatory phrase without evidence or context. Nothing in your account suggests malice or gross negligence on the part of the other driver.”

Those two sentences make no sense together. “Violence” doesn’t need malice or negligence to be violence. You can “cough violently”.

I’m fine with “traffic violence”, because crashes–including ones not caused intentionally–are often extremely violent. People don’t typically see or read about that level of violence or destruction happening in other areas of daily life.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

If I accidentally knock you through an open window, your fall might be violent, but I have not committed violence. If I push you, I have. Intention matters in this context. (Referring to either as “window violence” would sound as silly as “traffic violence” does to the unindoctrinated.)

“Traffic violence” is, at best, misleading. We have a much better word at our disposal.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

If we all knew people who’d died or been injured by falling from windows (whether thrown out intentionally, knocked by accident, or tripping) and we read every day about people being killed or receiving horrible injuries from the force of hitting the ground so hard that their bones were shattered and organs crushed, “window violence” would be a perfectly reasonable term.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

If you accidentally knock me through the window by gently knocking me off balance, I wouldn’t say that was a violent knock. If you accidently knocked me through it by ramming into me so hard (say while playing a sport in a gym) that you knocked me off my feet and I hurtled through the air ten or thirty feet and hit a tempered glass window so hard my body shattered it, I would say it was a violent hit, even though you didn’t intent to hit me.

Standard definitions of “violence” support that. And my example of the violent hit is typical of the force involved when a vehicle hits somebody or something.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

Definition of violence:
“behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.”

“Intended” implies there is motive.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  SERider

You took just one meaning of it. Other meanings don’t require motive:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violence

For instance: “3a: intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force”

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

And that’s the problem with something that has multiple means; people interpret it how they want. “violence” is a fairly loaded term.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  SERider

I would argue that its “loadedness” is exactly the word’s appeal.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

I guess, but if you’re claiming to be a “big tent” person and wanting to get people to join your cause and get out of their cars I don’t think calling something they do every day “inherently violent” (which implies to many that they’re a bad person) is going to do a good job in recruitment.

marisheba
marisheba
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

There are two definitions of “violent”. One explicitly involves intention, the other simply refers to something being vigorous or destrictive, without reference to intent. For whatever reason, contemporary English has evolved such that when we just talke about “violence” in a general way, we are always talking about the version that involves intention (I actually think one or two hundred years ago this wasn’t the case, and violence/violent were more commonly used over a wider range of applications than they are today).

You can’t cite the correct use of “violent” in its non-intentional context (“crashes are often extremely violent”, true–and important!) to advocuate for the incorrect usage of “traffic violence” which implies definition that includes intentionality to the typical reader. It’s misleading and also just confusing.

If you refer to any basic dictionary, you’ll see the distinction in the two definitions.

mran1984
1 year ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Damn, that was refreshing. Too bad it’s not going to much in this case. This was not violence, but that would not serve JM’s purpose.

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

Jonathan –
How many lives of your own family are you willing to sacrifice to the Auto Industrial Complex? You just purchased a third vehicle if I remember correctly.
One could argue that if you, or anyone in your household, uses a road (whether on foot, bicycle, mass transit or automobile), you are willing to sacrifice yourself or that family member.

EEE
EEE
1 year ago

Mike is advancing the logical fallacy that if you own a car or drive a car on a road then you must be willing to sacrifice your family to the altar of cars and roads. Mike distances himself from the argument by introducing it as though it might be someone else’s or is somehow optional (“One could argue…”), perhaps because Mike is fully aware it is dubious.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago

I think he’s trying to say you’re not pure enough, by owning an automobile.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

Aaaaand here’s our Progressive Purity Test! Not all that different than the Evangelicals – just different values to focus on.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

“One could argue that if you, or anyone in your household, uses a road (whether on foot, bicycle, mass transit or automobile), you are willing to sacrifice yourself or that family member.”

One could argue that that’s silly, because the only way to avoid that would be to never leave home.

Marco A
Marco A
1 year ago

Driving “absurdly slowly” is actually dangerous. It disrupts the normal flow of traffic.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

I think we need some clarification here.

Driving under 20 on a residential street because it is narrow and filled with people? Sure. That is safe. Driving under the speed limit on a commercial street for the same reasons? Sure.

Driving 40mph in good conditions on an interstate because you don’t want to go 55mph? Absolutely dangerous.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago

Yes. You said you drove “absurdly slowly”. That does not describe going 20 in a residential or busy commercial zone.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

I think we’re asking for clarification. I was providing examples. This is the part where you clarify.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

Thanks for clarifying. It’s really common for people who chronically speed to complain about the “hazards of slow drivers”, not realizing that these drivers are just going the speed limit, so I understand your defensiveness here. I didn’t intend to accuse you of driving 20+ mph below the limit.

I have seen people on the interstates who should absolutely not be there, though. Speed differentials are deadly, and that works on both ends of the spectrum.

JeffP
JeffP
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Driving in or with fear has similar results.

PTB
PTB
1 year ago

Is it “geez” or “jeez”? I use the J here. COME ON, MAUS.

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago

It seems traffic violence is out there in all forms. Here is a tragic case of bicycle violence.

https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/10/31/medical-examiner-pedestrian-hit-by-cyclist-died-from-complications/

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil M

You found one death from 2 years ago? Clearly a pandemic.

D'Andre Muhammed
D'Andre Muhammed
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Well whether the death occurred yesterday or two years ago it’s pretty sad. I know there are others, I remember one where some fool was playing with Strava? I guess the point is are we willing to pin the word “violence” on all forms of transportation or just the ones we don’t like?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

It’s a poor attempt at whataboutism. I’m am significantly more saddened by the 40,000+ people killed by motor vehicle drivers EVERY YEAR in this country.

The number of pedestrians killed by cyclists every year is so small that it isn’t even a rounding error in our total vehicle deaths. Any time/funding spent to address it would save more lives if it were instead used to address motor vehicle violence.

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Chris, you are a true hero. What are YOU doing to reduce vehicular VIOLENCE?

Ed Birnbaum
Ed Birnbaum
1 year ago

I’m so glad they’re OK, Jonathan.

hamiramani
1 year ago

Jonathan, thank you for sharing this; I know it was probably not easy to do.

rh
rh
1 year ago

Glad everyone is okay and it sounds like the other driver had insurance (or maybe you have uninsured motorist coverage).

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
1 year ago

Glad they are safe.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago

Glad no one was seriously injured, but your wife and daughter might be injured and not know it. They absolutely MUST go and get examined within a few days of the crash. Adrenaline initially masks the pain of neck injuries, and you may not feel it for several days.

Fortunately the separation of vertebrae is very easy to see on an X-ray, and easy to diagnose objectively. A qualified osteopath or chiropractor also knows exactly where to palpate to detect sensitivity where the victims might not have noticed. Both your and the other driver’s insurance companies may try to get you to sign something in a couple of weeks saying there were no injuries, in order to close off any liability. They know what they’re doing, so don’t do it unless you’re absolutely sure that’s the case, and your loved ones can’t be sure at this stage without an exam. They might be fine, but you won’t know until you know. Having them checked out this week is not optional.

I’ve been rear-ended (in cars) twice, in crashes that caused about the same amount of visible damage to the vehicles as in your wife’s case. I didn’t feel any pain at all for the first couple days, and then my neck started to hurt. Two weeks after each crash, the pain was worse than a week after the crash. In both cases I ended up having to have treatments several times a year for months (which took a huge chunk out of my schedule) and refrain from aggressive physical activity (including mountain biking, and paved rides longer than 30-60 minutes) for around a year.

Spinal injuries are insidious. I was skeptical of these types of injuries until they happened to me, and have since learned that the soft tissues around your spine don’t heal on the same timeline that we’re used to for other kinds of injuries. It was 2-3 years before I could do physical work above my head (like cutting tree branches, painting ceilings, even changing light bulbs) without minor pain in my neck that would last for minutes or even hours afterwards. More than 15+ years later, I can do almost all the activities I could do before (except lie on the couch to watch TV), but you’re never 100% the same again. Take this seriously.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
1 year ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

One more thing about the severity of the crash. Massive crashes engage airbags and crumple zones that are designed to absorb severe impacts, and we’ve all heard stories of people who’ve walked away from high-speed collisions that would have killed all the occupants in the cars of 50 years ago. But a crumple zone which can absorb a 50 mph impact isn’t going to crumple much in a 10-20 mph impact, and airbags may not deploy (or may deploy, and hit the body with more force than the crash itself). Minor collisions can expose the body to nearly as much force as more severe ones.

This reminds me that I fibbed a little bit above, when I said that the crashes I was in caused about the same amount of visible vehicle damage as your wife’s. Actually, the first one was a lot less visibly damaging: the hatch on my Civic was bent (because the offending vehicle’s bumper was higher than mine), and the 5500-pound Tahoe (!) that hit me barely had a scratch on its bumper.

So I know the answer to your question about what if the other driver was in a a huge SUV. The answer is not good: my little Civic absorbed 70% of the impact. And I can tell you, even though I’ve fallen skiing and mountain biking countless times, that was the single most violent blow my body has ever experienced.

But you know what would be worse than a huge SUV? Most full-sized pickups. Especially the heavy-duty and super-duty (F-250 and up) pickups which are far too prevalent on Portland roads. These weigh over 7000 pounds, and sometimes 9000 – twice your Odyssey. It’s disgusting to me that people should be allowed to drive those things around every day without special training, precisely because of the danger that all that hurtling mass poses to others.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

Every time you see a headline in the local news about a death on some rural road, you can generally assume that a massive pickup vs. smaller vehicle is involved. They are absolutely making our roads more dangerous.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

They absolutely should require another level of licensing.

EP
EP
1 year ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

A couple key things in pickup vs other vehicle crashes:

-Pickup bumper height is above that of most other vehicles, allowing it to go up and over the smaller vehicles bumper/side door beams and greater intrude into/onto the passenger compartment and hurt people.
-Pickups are body on frame construction, so the impact to another vehicle is from the bumper tied to a massive frame holding everything else, and not designed to crumple much. The pickup body may deform, but likely only to protect its occupants. Most other vehicles are unibody construction, so the whole vehicle absorbs crashes and is designed with numerous crumple zones to absorb impact.
-Add in the big difference in mass, and the pickup deals a huge blow to anything it hits.

When people say big trucks are fine, and a personal choice, freedom, etc. I ask them, “You’re in a car and a driver runs a stop sign and hits you. What type of vehicle would you want them to be driving?”

Time to get rid of the heavy duty vehicle loophole that has allowed pickups to morph from slow utility vehicles into deadly fast commuter fortresses.

ralph
ralph
1 year ago

Close calls make most of us think and rethink what’s true, what’s important. I’m glad your family is OK.

Steve
1 year ago

My power went out over the past several days due to “Weather violence”.

All joking aside, I’m glad your family is ok.

Phil M
Phil M
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

It’s all senstionalism.

Damien
Damien
1 year ago

For all the word lawyering, I’m surprised nobody just looked up “violence” in the dictionary.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violence

1a : the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy

I’m assuming this is the one most are hanging their hat on. The “so as to” implies intent, sure.

But wait, there’s more:

3a : intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force
//the violence of the storm

I would say this fits very well in this situation, as well as other violent traffic incidents.

SERider
SERider
1 year ago
Reply to  Damien

If you were saying the “violence of the crash” yes that second definition would be reasonable.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago

I am glad I do not share your belief that driving is inherently violent, because if I did, I would be unable to do it. It is important to me to align my actions with my morality, and I just could not justify committing an act of violence in order to get around. As it is, I rarely drive, but I am happy I have the option when I need it.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

To me, your comment reads as if you intentionally choose to disregard that 3rd definition so you can fit your actions within your morality. I don’t mean that as an attack.

The third definition involves relativity. For instance, automobile tires rolling “smoothly” upon pavement don’t create violent affects to any human, but at the microscopic level, tire, pavement, and air quality may nonetheless degrade, potentially costing wildlife (including humanity) health and resources necessary for maintaining health, safety, etc, and if we don’t see that as “violent”, because nobody intends such destruction, we let the word serve us less effectively than we could, by excusing behaviors on the basis they are not “violent”.

One reason I support anyone’s efforts to raise consciousness of “violence” by using it in the sense of the third definition is that policy often hurts people by limiting liability on the basis of intention. For example, my state just passed a law limiting liability regarding COVID-19. Anyone forced to work or lose their job, who alleges they contracted COVID-19 at the work place, must now prove their boss intended for them to get sick in order to receive any compensation. I’d argue that while a boss refusing their employees the right to stay home and retain their job during a pandemic not intending their employees to get sick is not equally violent as the boss who does so intending their employees to get sick, but that such does not make the former free of violence. And yes, I acknowledge I’m raising a violence different from the pure physical sense.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

I suppose if the violence we are discussing is on the microscopic level, my burden would be relieved. If the violence is only relative to something else (perhaps we could establish a modal violence hierarchy, spaceflight > flying > driving > biking > running > walking > sitting) then this topic becomes an exercise in angel counting rather than shifting perspectives (e.g. just how much more violent is running than walking or sitting?)

If, on the other hand, we are talking about a meaningful level of violence capable of killing, even if it is the 3a type, then I bear moral responsibility for bringing that into a world where it would otherwise be absent, just as I would if I could conjure a violent storm and chose to do so.

It seems you want to have it both ways: declare driving a violent act, but also morally excuse drivers for introducing an “often destructive force” [3a] when alternatives exist. You want people to think about driving differently, but simultaneously relieve them of the burden of doing so. So what’s the point?

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Sorry I was unclear. I made that comment in a bit of haste while my effort was broken up by my business partner talking to me. One statement should have read as follows with the added bold word: “automobile tires rolling ‘smoothly’ upon pavement don’t create direct violent affects to any human”. I was suggesting driving does create indirect violent affects to humans and other animals – lung damage, habitat destruction, climate change, etc. – not to even mention the activities that bring automobiles and roads into existence in the first place.

Perhaps with that clarification, you can see I wasn’t at all promoting any relief of burden (nor shame, self loathing, etc in response to any burden), but was only suggesting that shifting perspective from perceiving only intentional violence to also including unintentional violence allows people to perceive that hierarchy you proposed. And I hoped that anybody who came to acknowledge such a hierarchy would simply acknowledge whatever moral burden that may introduce to their life, whether or not they then choose to change their behavior (including counting things that may or may not even exist).

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

I was suggesting driving does create indirect violent affects to humans and other animals – lung damage, habitat destruction, climate change, etc.

If that’s all it takes to be violent, then it is hard to distinguish raising a cow (habitat destruction, climate change) from more traditionally construed violence such as punching someone, except by degree (where, arguably, the planetwide consequences of cow raising are more far-reaching and “violent” than those of a good localized punching). Life itself becomes violence.

While this might be an interesting philosophical point to debate on campus, I don’t think it is particularly useful in any practical sense.

Maybe when this conversation winds down, we can discuss “Climate Violence”. Remember, you heard it here first.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

To be violent and to commit violent acts are distinctions we can make. I have yet to see JM promote “traffic violence” and claim all people driving are “violent” people. Maybe we need different words for intended violence and non-intended violence, so that you and others wouldn’t feel compelled to place both on the same scale. For the record, I agree a localized punching is less destructive than raising cattle, and I say that as one who grew up raising cattle and other livestock, and whose family still raises various livestock.

Regardless, I’d say live is violence, in the sense that creation and destruction both constantly occur at the atomic level – we all suffer entropy! But I don’t want violence to lose meaning because it’s ubiquitous – instead I propose we be conscious of all types of violence so as to minimize our violence against anything that may suffer under it.

You might find this not useful in a practical sense, but please consider: you still choose to drive! I don’t, but I accept that my life still relies on other people driving – to service the infrastructure I use, to deliver the goods I consume and sell, etc – so I don’t mean that to pressure you in any way, but only to encourage you to reconsider that which you appear defensive against, such as accepting you can lead a life more violent than you wish.

Many years ago I decided my self contentment relied upon aligning all my actions with my values/ethics/morality/etc. That you seem to share such a goal is why I’ve continued this conversation. No matter how poor my efforts have been here, please trust I’ve meant them in cooperation.

Also…I’m a bit drunk.

marisheba
marisheba
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

I mean, you can make all of these arguments if you add a few paragraphs of citations every time you use the word. But the point of language is to communicate. If you call driving a violent act, what do you think 99.9% of people will think you are saying? All of your specialized arguments would do okay in a rigorously argued academic paper, but not in the realm of daily communication, where you are effectively changing word usage.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  marisheba

Inspired by people like Jesus, Gandhi, MLK Jr, my retired clergy friend, and more, I choose to base my language use not on widely held conceptions, but instead on what I believe makes sense, so even if 99.9% of people may interpret violence by only one of its definitions in pretty much every case, I don’t see that as reason to stop suggesting violence can and does play out in ways they don’t currently perceive as violent.

Having led a rather privileged life that has plagued family and friends with what they may have seen as ranting and rambling, I understand many people don’t have room for such talk in daily communication, but that idea (calling to mind mass exploitation, stress, poor health, etc) only makes me sad, and does not inspire resting on stagnant ideas of violence which perpetuate many problems humanity faces.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  Caleb

You know, I’d probably agree with you if we didn’t have ways of describing terrible things without using the word “violence”. No need to change the consensus definition, just pick a different word that encompasses the sorts of exploitation you want to discuss. Things don’t need to be “violence” to be bad.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

I was suggesting many types of exploitation have persisted and continue in large part because a majority of citizens don’t see them as results of violence.

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

It must be difficult for you to even get out of bed if you consider driving a car inherently violent. Curious if you can just get in a car and drive without thinking to yourself, “I hope I don’t kill someone” If not perhaps you need to talk to someone about it

caleb
caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

As one who has experienced difficulty getting out of bed, and who has for different reasons attended therapy, your comment reads like an accusation more than anything else. In other words: eff off, Mike, unless you care to help anyone or anything – what’s your intention here?

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

“It must be difficult for you to even get out of bed if you consider driving a car inherently violent.”

Why?

marisheba
marisheba
1 year ago

It seems to me that the 3a definition only applies when the word violence is being used to describe or modify something else–ie when it’s sort of a stealth adjective. “The violence of the storm.” “The violence of my wife’s crash.” “The violence of a person’s emotions.”

Can you think of any other context in which that 3a definition is used when we are just talking about violence as a category or as a phenomenon? Someone jokingly used the term “weather violence” above to describe the destructiveness of the ice storm, but in fact I think that is a precise analog to the way you are using “traffic violence”. It’s equally accurate, equally appropriate, and equally helpful (ie it is not helpful). Like, I really think you’re just getting the syntactic arguments wrong (and this doesn’t even touch your assertion that all driving is inherentely violent–which part of the definition supports that? By your definition of violence, one could say that all driving carries the potential for violence, but not that it all IS violent.)

Finally, this: “The fact that this term is so offensive and controversial I think speaks to why it is so necessary to use.”

Could you explain that further? To me it just looks like a lot of people (including me) arguing and digging in on a side issue. It’s not clear to me how this serves to elevate your goals, it seems like a side distraction. I don’t think a single person here disagrees with you that there are way too many road deaths and injuries, that driving is inherently dangerous, that traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths are traumatic, etc. So what good is done by a bunch of people already close to the same page, arguing needlessly about inflammatory vocabulary?

Finally, here is a good reason not to use this word phrase from a purely pragmatic standpoint related to your own goals. Traffic violence already has a clear meaning to most people–people using vehicles as a weapon to intentionally injure or kill people. Which we’ve seen way too many examples of in our country in the last year, plus our recent horrific assault in SE Portland. But if all crashes become traffic violence, then what terminology is left to distinguish the particular awfulness of genuine traffic violence? We have so many good words in the English language for describing all of the horrific elements of a traffic crash: “crash”, “destructive”, “trauma”, “violence” in its correct context (ie “violent crash” or “violently injured”) there’s no need to co-opt a term that is already playing a very important role.

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  Damien

Nobody is disputing that you can have a violent traffic crash, the leap to just driving being an inherently violent act is where there is an issue. Traffic is not inherently violent, because none of those things happen during normal traffic, so just driving cannot be participating in a violent act. If that was the case, riding a bike would be a violent act and so would running, because if either participant was to hit a stationary object the result would be a violent crash.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

I don’t know if I’d call driving “inherently violent” or not, either, but I don’t agree with your arguments. Violent crashes DO happen in “normal driving” if you define normal as the driving that’s happening every day, versus what would happen if everyone drove correctly all the time. As Jonathan said, ones like this one that certainly are violent–in terms of knocking tons of steel around and often injuring people–don’t even make the news.

In terms of calling bike riding or running violent because of the possibility of a violent crash, how often do those happen compared to vehicle crashes? Almost never. Significant vehicle crashes happen several times per day here.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

Crashing is not a normal outcome of driving (and if it is for you, please give your keys to a friend!). Yes, crashes happen every day, but in the context of hundreds of millions of uneventful trips daily, it’s hard to say they are typical or even common. Crashes do happen, but for most of us they are rare events.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

I agree, they’re not “normal” for each person, or for each mile driven. But they’re normal in the sense (as I said) that several happen every day here, with several people being killed each month. And they certainly happen more frequently than bikes and runners hitting stationary objects hard enough to be a “violent” crash, per the comment I was disputing.

marisheba
marisheba
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

That’s also true of skiing or running or most sports though. People don’t often die skiing or running, but they can, and we expect that a certain small number of people will die each year skiing (due to accidents or avalanche) or due to running (heat stroke, heart attack, etc). Yet we don’t call those sports deadly or suicideal, because the risk is still really really low. Same with driving. Yes, we expect things will sometimes go wrong and we know that sometimes people will die as a result, but those instances are extremely rare on the scale of the number of trips people take.

Now, that doesn’t excuse us from making our roads safer. Transportation is a requirement of living, and so it is our societal obligation to make transportation as safe as we possibly can. However, calling driving violent is about the same as calling running suicidal.

Caleb
Caleb
1 year ago
Reply to  marisheba

Driving has inherently higher potential for destruction than does running, so I don’t think calling driving violent is about the same as calling running suicidal.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  marisheba

I disagree that skiing, running or other sports are very comparable. While we do expect a few participants will die (or be injured seriously or cause property damage, since “traffic violence” isn’t only about deaths) those don’t happen several times per day every day here, which is how I was describing “normal”. And runners, skiers and other athletes almost never cause property damage, or injuries to other people. And while almost everyone’s daily safety is impacted by driving, hardly anyone’s is by sports, especially if you’re not doing the sport yourself.

And no, we don’t call many sports “deadly or suicidal” but nobody was call driving that either–it was being called “inherently dangerous” which is several notches below “deadly or suicidal”.

Your “calling driving violent is about the same as calling running suicidal” just makes no sense at all for all those reasons.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  marisheba

“Yes, we expect things will sometimes go wrong and we know that sometimes people will die as a result, but those instances are extremely rare on the scale of the number of trips people take.”

Yes, but “traffic violence” includes property damage and injuries, which are much less rare than deaths. And (as I said) while the numbers may be low per-mile or per-hour, they are not low in the sense that every day so many injuries and so much damage occurs that it’s not newsworthy or even worth police time. Even traffic deaths in Portland are so common they typically get only rudimentary press coverage.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

Does property damage constitute violence?

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Yes.

Tom
Tom
1 year ago

“How many lives in your own family are you willing to sacrifice?”
My family has sacrificed one incredibly valuable precious life to traffic violence. One too many.

PATRICK
PATRICK
1 year ago

I’m so glad your family is OK. I habitually drive the speed limit and try to keep in the right lane. Even so, sad drivers living in desperation continue to whip around me to get to their destination a few seconds faster. Thoreau’s quote from Walden comes to mind, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” They rarely experience contentment. They rarely pay attention to majority of life that is Mundane, significant, and frequently beautiful.

X
X
1 year ago

I’m glad your family members appear to be OK.

A few days ago somebody asked us to quit making the car-gun comparison. Sorry, I can’t. The by-product, the collateral damage, of personal motor vehicles as “transportation” is a yearly number of deaths approximately equal to deaths by shooting. Each day in the US, about 100 people who just want to get someplace die in a car crash. There’s no unviolent way to die in a car crash.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago

I am so sorry that your family had to endure this at the hands of someone in their assumably turbo-charged pen*s extension. And thankful that it wasn’t worse. It looks like exactly the sort of vehicle I see aggressively lane-weaving at high speed across the Fremont Bridge almost every day.

My next upgrade for my car is front and rear dashcam, because of exactly this kind of idiocy. I am a pathologically careful driver. But that doesn’t count for **** if nobody else around you is.

mark smith
mark smith
1 year ago

Why didn’t he apologize? Because he was looking at his phone. That car is designed to stop far faster/better than an aging minivan (sorry, minvans are old tech from day one, tech starts in Europe). That car on paper is worth a lot…and this dude just takes his trust fund/hedge check plus insurance and in days has the same type of car. I see it every day in a truck. They don’t care and insurance doesn’t worry about it as they cash their thousands of dollars every year from us….

Someday…insurance companies will require inboard cameras for an auto discount just like trucks have. Until this, it’s game on.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 year ago

You know what I find interesting, I broke my arm recently riding one of those electronic skateboards. When I tell acquaintances like coworkers about it, I get a lot of flak like, “what were you doing on that thing anyway” or “aren’t you too old for one of those things?”

If I had broken my arm in a traffic collision in an automobile, even if it was my fault, I would have received universal understanding and compassion. Just an observation.