Cars and Posthumanism: Chapter 1

(Note to self: If you ever want to murder someone, use a car to do it.)

The driver who killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk in November 2006 in West Seattle was convicted of assault, with a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $5000 fine. An appeal is expected, because the city law under which he was charged allows a more severe sentence than the norm — the norm being essentially a slap on the wrist.

Tragedies like this — and they happen all the time — are SO revealing about how warped our attitudes are when it comes to cars. If there was a disease, or a food, or a behavior, or a machine, or any other anything that caused anywhere near the death and destruction that is consistently caused by cars, there would be a national uproar. We are a society that is hyper-aware of safety — except with cars. Even though getting into a car is by far the most dangerous thing that the average person does in their daily life.

Yes, we all get distracted from time to time when driving. It easily could have been me or you who killed that pedestrian. But that excuse is precisely the problem. We’re not taking responsibility for the deadly power we are wielding when we drive cars. We need our attitudes adjusted with better training, stricter laws, and better enforcement. We need to get over our bizarre cultural imbalance that some have called “carhead.”

The photo below is but one example of the lack of seriousness with which we take pedestrian safety. There are crosswalks with the paint eroded away like this all over the city. Yet we know that well marked crosswalks help drivers become more aware of pedestrians. Is paint really that expensive? Not as cheap as life, apparently.

This post is part of a series; see also Chapter 37.