By Horace Cooper and Nathanael Bennett
Starting with Al Gore’s alarmist claims about the automobile in his 1992 book “Earth in the Balance” to Greta Thunberg’s regular crusades against gas powered cars the left has openly tried to get Americans to give up the family car. As President, Obama placed limits on oil production, elevated mile per gallon (MPG) requirements and waged war on the SUV. These efforts hurt car ownership but weren’t fatal.
Now Democrats have a new plan. They have to kill cars to save you and me. Their latest alarmism tool – the phony rise in highway deaths.
In late January, Biden Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg released the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS); a 42-page plan aiming to promote safer roadways in the US. His goal is to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. The secret sauce to his plan is making car ownership miserable for you and me.
If there is anyone under the sun who could pull off such an ambitious goal, it certainly isn’t Buttigieg. Other than his high-profile two-month long paternity leave last summer that proved men were essential for newborns, it’s not clear what other ideas if any he brings to the table for Biden.
Buried in the bureaucratic morass that makes up the 42-page plan is the big killer: thousands of speed cameras will be installed around the country. For good measure, he also plans to bribe your state and local governments to dramatically lower speed limits.
The public purpose: slow down drivers and save lives. Although Orwellian surveillance techniques have become a staple of the left the last 2 years, none will wreak havoc on the wallets of Americans like this. Data from cities and states who have already implemented speed cameras has shown a dramatic increase in the number of tickets doled out each year, but no sign of improvement in lowering auto related fatalities.
For instance, data collected in Seattle shows that traffic cameras gave out 20 times more traffic citations than police did in 2020. In that same time frame, crashes trended upwards. Nearby cities Burien and Auburn passed legislation to remove traffic cameras from their streets after data showed they did not improve safety in the slightest.
Data in Chicago showed a similar trend. A ProPublica study showed that the use of traffic cameras was “especially punishing” for minority household budgets, which have been hit with $15 billion worth of citations and penalties resulting in vehicle impoundments, driver’s license suspensions, and bankruptcies. The rate of citations in these neighborhoods was double that of non-minority neighborhoods.
In addition to these studies, Missouri’s Department of Transportation released their traffic deaths data, and of the 1007 traffic related deaths in 2021, over two thirds were not wearing a seatbelt – an issue that a speed camera simply will not fix.
Ironically, experts have agreed for decades that slower speeds actually make major roads less safe. To quote a 1996 Institute of Transportation Engineers study cited by the National Motorists Association:
“Those driving 10 mph slower than the prevailing speed are six times as likely to be involved in an accident. That means that if the average speed on an Interstate is 70 mph, the person traveling at 60 mph is far more likely to be involved in an accident than someone going 70 or even 75 mph.”
That study goes on to assert that increasing the speed limit on roads to the actual speed that 85% of cars travel on it would make roads safer, a concept called the 85th percentile principle which prior to Ralph Nader’s anti-car advocacy was the way all highway speed limits were set.
Rather than saving lives, traffic cameras and artificially low speed limits are the easiest way for federal, state and local governments to create a steady flow of income and “drive” down interest in car ownership. Let’s also not forget the bounty this will provide to the insurance industry.
Under the guise of “public safety” Buttigieg and his colleagues plan to use taxpayer dollars to build and install thousands of machines that will fund their other irresponsible spending habits. Combined with insurance companies’ higher rates for “speeding” there will be less money in your pocket without any life-saving benefit. Gasoline prices are high enough now and when this new plan is added to the picture, we could see significant drops in car ownership.
Seeking zero highway deaths sounds nice until you realize the actual goal is to undo the 20th century’s greatest mobility invention – the automobile. Automotive ownership is one of the greatest ways for Americans to exercise freedom. Let’s not this latest far-left scheme to kill cars succeed.
Horace Cooper is an author and Co-Chair of Project 21. Nathanael Bennett is a fellow with American Commitment.