These things happened yesterday:
- The warm weather coaxed many of my neighbors outside and they were visible and audible on my quiet, narrow residential street. They walked dogs, tended to their yards and simply inhabited the public realm. Hurtling through the middle of this pleasing scene came a car traveling at least 50 m.p.h. That’s double the speed limit.
- In front of the Home Depot on Victory Drive, shoppers nervously eyed the river of cars separating the parking lot from the store. They hurried through small gaps between the slowly moving vehicles. Some drivers were annoyed with having to momentarily tap the brakes to let pedestrians scurry in front of their front bumpers. They acted this way despite the fact that as soon as they parked, they too would be pedestrians running the same gauntlet
- I was driving down Columbus Drive, observing the posted speed limit. Finding this unacceptable, the motorist behind me passed on the right and sped ahead, narrowly missing a parked car. Seconds later, we were reunited as we both waited of the traffic signal at Paulsen Street.
What is it about looking through a windshield that influences us to make such selfish and potentially tragic choices? How can simply placing our hands on the steering wheel impair our judgement, turn us against our fellow citizens and cause us to engage in risky behavior that we know will yield only small, fleeting rewards (if any).
I think our president almost had it right when he suggested we were addicted to foreign oil. The truth is we are addicted to our cars. This addiction clearly affects us even when we are not using. As addicts, our thinking remains skewed between doses of driving. What else could explain the editorial, published in yesterday’s Savannah Morning News?
Following is one of the few unimpaired thoughts expressed in the editorial (except for use of the word “blessedly”).
“While fuel prices have blessedly receded, that happened because Americans are adjusting their driving patterns and buying more fuel-efficient cars.”
Exactly. This acknowledges a simple fact that eluded the Drill, Baby, Drill faction. Conservation works. But not so fast. According to the Savannah Morning News editorial board, that’s actually a bad thing:
“The higher fuel prices could backfire by pushing drivers even further toward gas-sipping hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles. While reducing our fuel consumption might be a laudable goal, doing so works at cross purposes for increasing gas tax revenues.”
That’s right. Beginning to recover from our addiction “might be a laudable goal.”
Near the end of the editorial, my fellow addicts at the paper offer this driving-addled statement:
Before raiding drivers’ pockets, Congress and the Obama administration should first take a carving knife to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cutting out waste, redundant bureaucracy and reviewing all projects for need and priority.
This ignores the fact that everyone’s pockets are raided to keep the price of driving artificially low. It also ignores the negative externalities that come along with our absolute dependence on cars. Above all, it sneers at anything that gets in the way of our next dose. That’s classic drug-seeking behavior.
Photo by Sophie Newman via Flickr.