Question of the Day: Motorists' Democracy Inaction?

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
question of the day motorists democracy inaction

A bit of a philosophical one for you today. With the (not quite) shocking revelation that whoops London's congestion charge will in fact increase CO2 emissions, and that Mayor Ken Livingstone's administration buried the report, I've been thinking. Who the hell put the politicians in charge? As Woody Allen said, they're just one wrung above child molesters. And he would know. Another example of political grandstanding trumping logic is Bremen enacting a speed limit on a formerly derestriced prt of the Autobahn to (maybe) reduce CO2 emissions by fiver percent. In both examples, motorists' rights were thrown under the [slowly moving] bus for the sake of political expediency. And just to be my own Devil's advocate, during a recent conversation with my London cousin about "Red Ken's" congestion charge, he said he loved it. True, he decided to sell his dirty old Saab, but he says the streets are much calmer and that the city is better off because of the charge. So the question is: can any politician be trusted to get anything car-related right?

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  • Geeber Geeber on Apr 10, 2008
    TexasAg03: Wouldn’t signing a title be the same as entering into a contract? If so, one would have to be 18 to purchase a vehicle. If I recall correctly, a minor (i.e., someone under the age of 18) can enter a contract, but said contract can then be voided unilaterally by the parents until the minor is a legal adult. Anyone who is selling a vehicle to a minor would be wise to have dad and/or mom there to approve the deal - or, better yet, sell the car to mom or dad, and have THEM register it in junior's name. Also note that registering a vehicle is not the same as purchasing it, or the same as being able to operate it. I can, if i choose, sign my car over to my five-year-old nephew. I would imagine that he can still register it in his name. But he cannot legally drive it on public roads, because he is not legally old enough to drive (16 in Pennsylvania). He could, however, still point to the vehicle while it is parked in the driveway or garage and say, "That is my car." He just cannot legally drive it.
  • B-Rad B-Rad on Apr 10, 2008
    TexasAG03: You are correct about the kids in fast vehicles. I have seen people get Corvettes for their first vehicle at 16. I had a 1970 3/4 Chevy pickup with a "granny" four speed transmission and I was involved in plenty of high-speed hoonage... As a minor I'll be the first to tell you it definitely doesn't matter what you're driving to do some hoonage (and damage, although I've been lucky cause, well, I'm not a TOTAL idiot). Getting the back end loose in a '92 Chevy Astro, while hard on the van, is definitely fun. It's also fun in a '96 Grand Prix, but that takes a bit more skill. And rain helps too, cause it's FWD. I'm pretty sure here in Virginia there are no age restrictions on owning a car, (ie, having your name on the title), but I'm pretty sure you have to be 18 to test drive and purchase cars from dealers. I'm not positive, though, as I'm waiting till I'm 18 before I start trying to get some test drives just to be safe.
  • Edgett Edgett on Apr 10, 2008

    Several interesting points: edgett: Certainly, but the object of getting people to stop and think about the amount of lost time sitting in traffic seems a worthwhile objective. Geeber: But what makes you think that they aren’t thinking about this already? This idea was put forward with respect to safety in the workplace; that people would make appropriate choices and thus intervention by government or industry was unnecessary. The fact is that some percentage of people make smart choices (ie: to work safely or to limit their commute, or means of commute, as a means of getting more utilization from the same infrastructure), but most do not until they recognize costs. I met a man several years ago who had a 4-6 hour daily commute and hated the time away from his family. When asked why he put up with it, he believed that he could make up to 20% more in the city and was thus forced to commute. I pointed out that he might find a lower paying job where he could work more hours locally and thus save both the time and cost of the commute. He seemed dumbstruck that the math worked out. Just because people keep doing things like sitting in traffic out of habit does not mean that they have thought about other options. If we change the economics, this creates a new condition that they must then reexamin habitual behavior. This happened during the both gas crunches in the 70's, when people realized they could plan their travel and actually learn to live without the Buick Electra they habitually bought while visiting the gas station less frequently. Nudges in this direction do not necessarily increase government waste. On the issue of fast vehicles, the object wasn't to single out young drivers, but to suggest that automotive safety can be enhanced by requiring training of people based on the type of vehicle they are going to drive. If one learns to drive and even learns accident avoidance in a Ford Escort, this does not qualify them to deal with similar conditions in a Ford Expedition or a 435 hp base Corvette. A pilot cannot learn to fly a single engine plane and then move automatically into four-engine transport aircraft (and Geeber, this does relate to individual "choice" relative to air safety), so why do we not qualify people to drive cars which have vastly different capabilities with respect to handling and speed? The absurd example of a new-to-motorcycling rider ripping out of the Kawasaki dealership aboard a 180 mph missile really does represent a significant part of motorcycle fatalities, and does not apply only to young riders. The range of automobiles available today is extraordinary and worthy of our respect. But even given my track experience in a BMW 3-series doesn't suggest to me that I would be a "safe" driver in a Corvette Z06 or ZR1, and certainly has virtually no bearing on my ability to drive a 6000 lb SUV.

  • Geeber Geeber on Apr 10, 2008
    edgett: This happened during the both gas crunches in the 70’s, when people realized they could plan their travel and actually learn to live without the Buick Electra they habitually bought while visiting the gas station less frequently. Nudges in this direction do not necessarily increase government waste. The changes in the 1970s were spurred by fears of shortages (caused at least in part by government actions) and rapid increases in price. But even then, there were still people who decided that they could afford a gas guzzler and didn't want to change. Such as my parents, who decided to trade their 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 on a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale instead of Toyota Corona or even an Oldsmobile Omega. There's no problem with people reacting to economic forces on their own. But there are those will decided to just pay the extra costs and do or buy what they like - just as my parents did with their purchase of a big Olds - and others will get worked up about it. Because too many crusades are really about control or punishing people for making choices that the crusaders dislike. My parents liked big cars. I like to drive 75-80 mph. In both cases, the extra cost of that choice was (and is) worth it for us. But that annoys some people, hence they act as though we don't "know" the true cost (um, I pay for the gas every time I fill up) or that we need them to "guide" our choices to ensure the "correct" one. (Turning to your original example of air safety - the government's efforts in that regard are not designed to discourage air travel, or punish or penalize people who fly. The government through its regulatory framework is ENCOURAGING air travel, because if every tenth flight ended in a fiery crash, only the bravest, or suicidal, would ever fly. So this example isn't really comparable to what you are advocating here.) As for fast cars and extra training - a driver can get into trouble with a Ford Focus or Honda Civic. Most fatal accidents around here happen on two-lane country roads, and on those roads 60 mph is often "too fast." And most of the cars involved aren't sports cars or high-performance sedans. If anything, it's a parade of old Rangers, S-10s, Civics and Escorts with drivers who, for whatever reason (often they are drunk), steer them into trees, roll them over or smash them head-on into tractor trailers. I also recall reading that higher horsepower vehicles had BETTER safety records that comparable lower horsepower vehicles. Basing a license on the type of vehicle driven sounds unworkable, as well as another way for the government to raise revenue (the Department of Motor Vehicles isn't going to conduct tests and issue special licenses without charging additional fees) without doing anything to improve safety.