Who pays the price for bad decisions?

Who pays the price for bad decisions?


Here are a few crazy ideas:

Cars are too safe. Drivers should only have insurance for theft and vandalism. The victims, or potential victims, should write the laws that pertain to the offender.

Ok, so now, what am I on about? I came across the quote below recently and it made me think.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. – Thomas Sowell

It’s already been said, but there are accidents, like black ice, falling trees, and sinkholes, and then there are collisions, like nearly all of the “accidents” that happen, which could have been avoided if people conducted themselves with the due care and consideration that is required of them when driving.

Whereas killing someone with a bicycle is incredibly rare and requires just the right set of circumstances, killing someone with a car is easy, taking place thousands of times a week on the roads, but also on sidewalks, and even inside buildings.

But hey, accidents happen, right? It’s just comes with the territory of being in and around cars, and there’s really nothing that can be done about it.

And that’s often where we stop thinking about it. We don’t want to really engage with the problem on a real level. We’ve not only become accepting of the fact that, when it comes to driving, having incredibly low standards of what “proficient” means, having almost no accountability for people who kill other people with a vehicle, doing our best to both encourage more driving by making cars as comfortable and generally appealing to the senses and emotions as possible while designing our cities with cars as the most efficient mode of transport, and physically and mentally isolating drivers from the real dangers of the road when in their vehicles – we actively encourage and fight for these things.

So when someone wielding a dangerous object ends up using it without due care and causes someone else injury or death, who pays the price?

That’s the downside of a democracy. Power to the people. Majority rules.

What happens when the majority of people all want to look after themselves first? Self interest is ultimately maintained at all costs. Sure, you have to make an effort to appear to be concerned with the problem right in front of you, but if it’s not directly affecting you and it would cost you in some way to have to deal with it, then it’s kept on the back-burner until it becomes a problem of such magnitude that there is no option but to properly address it.

Yes, the balance is changing in many cities, but I would still suggest that in most places, the car is so ingrained in our way of life that we are not willing to compromise in any meaningful way in order to curb the deaths, injuries, health issues, or environmental issues.

Go ahead and run a really special campaign to ask people to be better drivers, or even try to scare them into behaving better with confronting commercials, but heaven forbid you make the really scary consequences of hitting someone with your car some actual, costly, personal consequences.

And like most things in life, it all comes down to money. Or does it? If most people put what they paid in order to run the 1-3 cars they have in their household into funding a good public transport system, I would like to think that the money would still be flowing around in the economy, no?

I’m an idiot when it comes to most things macro economics, so I’ll just throw that grenade out there and see what comes back…

Anyway, in terms of a cost benefit analysis, it should be in favour of fewer people getting killed/injured rather than making sure that the majority isn’t being affected by slightly lower speeds or stiffer penalties for causing an accident. A majority that would soon be a minority, ironically, if public transport and active travel was made more efficient than driving (I know it’s only Wikipedia, but it’s still not so much amusing as depressing to see what two countries occupy the bottom half of this list when filtered for private motor vehicle in large cities).

So what do I suggest? Again, I’ve been through this before, but I think we’ve made driving too easy. The magnitude of the responsibility hardly registers. It’s too divorced from its consequences. I can sit here and say that people would probably drive differently if cars no longer had seat belts, airbags to protect the driver and insurance to pay for the mess, but that’s not very realistic. I think it would have a desired effect, but that’s too far to the other extreme. The spirit of that suggestion remains, and I do maintain that drivers of motorized vehicles need to personally bear more responsibility for their actions.

If you get into your car thinking that the worst that could happen should you get caught speeding or using your phone is a fine, or that if you kill someone you’ll just have to deal wear the emotional baggage (which would be horrible, don’t get me wrong), you’ll take a much different approach than if you were to lose your license for a period of time if caught using your phone or speeding, or worse for hitting, injuring, or killing someone.

As it stands, a person who “accidentally” hits and kills someone else – let’s say they’re even off the road and in a building – nearly always gets off with a moving violation, if anything, while their insurance covers the cost of the damage to their car, their medical expenses, damage to property, and they can even continue to keep driving once that has all been arranged, no questions asked.

Does that sound reasonable to anyone?

People that have everything to gain by promoting driving and nothing to lose by keeping the responsibility for it at arm’s length should not be in a position where they can make the rules. Our current situation is where that has gotten us. Lots of dead people. A lazy and overweight nation. A crippled environment. Some countries have decided that enough is enough and have been making the changes to reflect that ever since.

We need more accountability. To do that, we need to attach a personal cost to those who make decisions that affect the well-being of those around them.


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