A car diet

The  emotional  response  to  any  criticism  of  cars

Recently, I caused a bit of a storm on social media. My crime? Simple – I asked why we do not have laws that limit the size (width and length), along with top speed and engine power of cars. Yes, I’m aware there are laws which specify certain limits, esp w.r.t vehicle width. I’m also aware that different licence categories impose weight restrictions, but this is more specific that that.

You will note that – despite rather strongly believing that we should have tight laws governing this – what I did was merely ask a question. Never once did I suggest that we should immediately scrap all cars that exceed certain limits. Not once did I propose that everyone everywhere should be forced to all drive exactly the same car.  Some of the reactions suggested that some people at least convinced themselves that this was exactly what I proposed. Those people almost immediately became extremely defensive.

“SUV’s are safer for pedestrians”

One person (unsurprisingly, a Land Rover driver) claimed that SUVs were somehow safer for pedestrians . The reality is SUVs are lethal to pedestrians, and becoming more so.

MTBers – do we have a problem?

What surprised me even more was the number of cyclists into mountain biking that took umbrage to my question. Full disclosure: I used to ride an MTB, and at some stage would like to get one again. However, I’m certainly no hardcore MTBer. At the same time, I’m supportive of all cycling, and that includes MTBs, obviously.

However, I’ve lost count of the number of close overtakes I’ve had from drivers with a MTB on their car. Others have expressed similar experiences.
No, I’m certainly not saying all MTBer are poor drivers. There does seem to be a visible minority of MTBers who take pleasure in giving cyclists a close overtake. If you’re a MTBer, you might want to discuss that with fellow riders?

What was very apparent from the result of my having asked the question is how emotional an issue it was. That doesn’t bode well for any attempt to clamp down on the carnage caused by drivers, daily.

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A reality check…

Allow me to point out some sobering facts here. To begin with, road KSI (killed, or seriously injured) numbers have, thankfully, largely been fairly static, since 2012. The most recent figures available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) dates from 2018, and that shows 73 people were killed, or seriously injured per day in the UK.
The figures also show that 5 people are killed per day by drivers.

These are exceedingly sobering figures. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry 296 passengers. The road death figures we’re facing amounts to a full Dreamliner crashing every two months, with loss of all lives on-board.
If just ONE such crash occurred, it’d be headline news, and if one crashed every two months, we’d ground all those planes.

And yet, with cars, we simply shrug our shoulders? What is wrong with our society that we simply shrug off such carnage. Yet we  get highly upset and emotional if anyone dares suggesting we reduce the size, weight and speed of cars?

Pedestrians killed  on  the  pavement

Between 2005 and 2018, drivers killed average of 42 pedestrians per year were killed on the pavement. This just blends into background noise, purely because the killing is done by drivers. Contrast that with the wall-to-wall news coverage, breakfast TV shows and radio phone-ins that focused on the Charlie Aniston case. He was that cyclist who crashed into a pedestrian that stepped out in front of him, sadly resulting in her death.

Now ask yourself why we refuse to acknowledge, let alone address the daily slaughter on our roads.

“But escooters  need  to be speed-limited!”

For-hire electric scooters are legal in the UK, but they have to be speed limited. Ebikes are legal, provided they have a motor of maximum 250W, and that the e-assist cuts out at 15mph.
New motorcycle riders are limited in both engine size, and engine power, when they start riding.

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But you are free to pass your driving licence in a Kia Piqanto, then (ignoring any financial constraints) buy yourself an Audo R8. That is a car with over 600bhp (440kW) engine power, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60mph in three seconds. It has a top speed of 200mph. You can buy a 5-litre engined Range Rover, but your ebike must be limited to 250W! Can you see how pathetic that is?

How is a car capable of 200mph road legal in a country with a maximum speed limit of 70mph?

Are you beginning to see the issue yet?

There is a wealth of clear evidence that SUVs, one of the most popular categories of car, are increasingly lethal to pedestrians, and wiping out pollution reductions previously made. Specifically, research found that SUVs double the risk of a pedestrian being killed, when struck by an SUV, as opposed to a normal car.
On average, SUVs use a quarter more energy to move around, and the CO2 emissions alone from SUVs have shot skywards.

Simply put, driving an SUV is a public statement that you’re extremely selfish, that you have a complete disregard for the increased danger you will cause to others, and that you don’t have any consideration for the increased impact you will have on climate change. Yes, those are harsh words, and you may not like hearing them, but they’re backed by solid research and evidence. There simply can be no excuse for driving an SUV in an urban environment, save perhaps for some very restricted exceptions.

A Qashqai, almost any Land Rover or Range Rover, M5 upwards, Q4 upwards and similar vehicles aren’t bought for terrain ability. They’re bought because the owners feel entitled, and that entitlement comes at a cost to the rest of society.

Bigger  cars  need  more  road  space

Larger cars take up more road space. That’s simply basic physics, and if you don’t believe me, try parking a row of BMW M6 SUVs, bumper to bumper, on a football pitch, until the line of cars stretch from end to end. Next, do the same with a bunch of Smart cars alongside, then count which row has most cars in it.

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Most cars on urban roads have a single occupant, and if each such car is bigger, then roads rapidly become more congested, to the point that nothing moves. Switching to smaller cars immediately frees up more road space, but that goes for width, as well as length. Narrow roads can become impassable, due to big cars parked on either side, but if you replaced the big cars with smaller ones, more space becomes available.

It’s clear that this selfish greed for road space is not doing anyone any favours. Equally clear is that, as a society, we appear unable to limit this trend for bigger cars, and especially SUVs. They’re only getting even bigger! Relying on personal responsibility doesn’t work, and the “market” obviously has no incentive to do anything other than sell more SUVs.

It’s true that larger, heavier cars can be safer, but only for the occupants of that car. Yet again, selfish interests pushes the increased danger onto others.

I strongly believe it is time we implement laws to limit very restrictive limits on the maximum length and width of cars, as well as the weight, maximum engine power, and of course, maximum engine size.

Climate change is real and terrifying, and road transport emissions is a massive contributor. Each and every one of us need to be less greedy, less selfish, less dangerous, and less polluting.

1 thought on “A car diet”

  1. I had similar attacks when I compared the Australian CoVid death rate to the Australian Motor Vehicle related death rate. 900 CoVid related deaths, a lot with co-morbidity, around 1200 per state and territory related motor vehicle deaths.
    Sadly I think it is an issue of "people not liking facts". As you said, they respond emotionally, and I can't for the life of me understand why.

    Reply

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