Comment of the Week: Carrots, sticks, and carmakers

Today’s Comment of the Week is by SurlyOgre in response to a post Jonathan wrote from NYC after listening to Astoria, Queens Assembly member Zohran K. Mamdani on a panel titled Supersized SUVs, Mega Trucks, and Regulatory Failure.

My choice is personal. I recognized Mamdani’s name as being the representative whose office is within a couple of blocks from where a friend of mine was run over by a cement truck earlier this year. Tammy Kao was right-hooked while riding a Citi Bike east on 24th Ave, the driver turned right onto 29th St and crushed her. I lived a few blocks from the crash site for several years in the 1990s.

I hadn’t been in touch with Tammy since leaving NYC, but her death still came as a shock to me.

Although Tammy wasn’t mentioned in Jonathan’s post, it surely has been on Mamdani’s mind, as well as mine. SurlyOgre captured my feelings:

it’s about time an elected official is calling for regulation of an industry that manufactures missiles with 4 wheels. it is super bad news when an airplane crashes and hundreds of people die. Imagine if Tesla, GM, Ford, all had to pay 1% of their quarterly revenue every time a serious crash occurred. Reducing Crashes and Safety would become their focus, not luxury and speed. There was a time when people did not wear seat belts and look where we are now, nearly everyone wears seat belts. People used to smoke inside and look where we are now, smoking is not allowed in restaurants or airplanes. Culture changes when government realizes there is danger and/or financial loss. People can change when there are carrots and sticks. TAX LARGE VEHICLES NOW. TAX LARGE TIRES NOW. TAX LARGE ENGINES NOW. TAX VEHICLES THAT CAN EXCEED SPEED LIMITS NOW.

Sometimes my sessions of sweet, silent thought turn to all of the people I know, and their families, who have been severely injured or killed by cars. The injuries especially can affect generations of a family. My personal catalogue is long.

Thank you SurleyOgre for putting into words what many have been thinking for years. Read the comment in its original thread here.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Michael
Michael
6 months ago

On a parallel path, I’ve wondered how our built environment might be different if a root cause investigation were performed every time there was a “major” collision involving death, serious injury, or major economic damage. Rather than a slapdash police report to supply fault in a civil or criminal legal case, we could have a detailed report outlining the factors that led to or exacerbated the incident along with recommendations to prevent the incident from occurring again. Imagine if a root cause analysis recommendation were automatically fast-tracked to the front of DOTs’ investment and maintenance plans, and they were barred from doing any more work before remedying the unsafe conditions that already existed!

Fred
Fred
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael

You’re describing the zero-fault system that exists in commercial aviation.

Think of the decision that came about in the early days of automobiles to let virtually ANYONE drive a car. That one decision ensured the deaths of millions of people. How different would our transportation system be if only professionals were allowed to operate motor vehicles!

Mark Linehan
Mark Linehan
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael

Vivek Jeevan and BikeLoud PDX have done a detailed analysis of 11 years of PDX bicycle crashes. Vivek has done the same for pedestrian fatalities in a collaboration with Oregon Walks.

9watts
9watts
5 months ago

Culture changes when government realizes there is danger and/or financial loss.”

That is true, as far as it goes, but let’s not forget GM’s campaign to smear Nader who was trying to get government to do exactly what you say they eventually do –

“In response to Nader’s criticisms, GM attempted to sabotage Nader’s reputation. It “(1) conducted a series of interviews with acquaintances of the plaintiff, ‘questioning them about, and casting aspersions upon [his] political, social, racial and religious views; his integrity; his sexual proclivities and inclinations; and his personal habits’; (2) kept him under surveillance in public places for an unreasonable length of time; (3) caused him to be accosted by girls for the purpose of entrapping him into illicit relationships; (4) made threatening, harassing and obnoxious telephone calls to him; (5) tapped his telephone and eavesdropped, by means of mechanical and electronic equipment, on his private conversations with others; and (6) conducted a ‘continuing’ and harassing investigation of him.”

On March 22, 1966, GM President James Roche was forced to appear before a United States Senate subcommittee and apologized to Nader for the company’s campaign of harassment and intimidationNader sued GM in November 1966 for invasion of privacy.” He won the case on appeal in January 1970 and was awarded $425,000, which he used to establish the Center for Auto Safety, a non-profit advocacy group. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_at_Any_Speed:_The_Designed-In_Dangers_of_the_American_Automobile#:~:text=On%20March%2022%2C%201966%2C%20GM,1966%20for%20invasion%20of%20privacy.