Thursday, June 4, 2009

How do you value a human life?

Americans are a big people. Not just physically, but we're a big hearted, optimistic, generous, out going, ambitious people as well.

We have been blessed as a nation, and we have very often taken advantage of our privileged position. The ugly American, as we are often seen abroad, is also a reality.

So, North America will never be Europe. Our cities are new, our roads are straight. Public transportation is more an ideal than reality for most Americans. We need our cars. We don't have to navigate tiny ancient cart tracks. In America we have roads.

We also have SUV's. They come big, bigger and biggerest. Not only do we need them, but we have somehow persuaded auto manufacturers in countries where cart tracts are still frequently found that we need them to make SUV's also.

That is why it is so easy to establish the value of a single American life.


Mosey down to the local retailer vending the "Smart Car" shown in the first picture. Watch his video about crash test safety, side impact restraints, and its great warranty.

Granted the car is cute, comes in a wide variety of configurations from convertible to sedan, and engine sizes, from mouse to squirrel. Attractive color schemes (all the better to be seen). handles like a go-kart, sips mouse fuel. Sounds like a pretty attractive deal.

Your thinking, wow what a great car for the kids.

So take it for a spin. While you buckle up, keep in mind how uncomfortable you are while sandwiched on the road by tractor trailers looking up at compact cars.

That thought will help you adjust to the notion that every car on the road is much larger than you. Every time you're at a stop light you're in that same tractor trailer tunnel. Even if tractor trailers are no where to be seen.

So what's an American life worth? I figure the cost of a smart car. If you're driving one, you value your life somewhat more than a bike ride, but less than a someone in a used Hyundai. High self esteem drivers need not apply



longwing said...

Toad my friend, I so hate to be the bummer man but it has often occurred to me that it is the person in the giant SUV that values human life very little. For it is not just the value that we give our own life, but the value of other's lives that matters. And one is far more likely to take a human life in a Hummer than a Smart Car.

Toad said...

Fundamentaly, I agree on all points. My thought is if you are willing to pay to risk life and limb in a go-kart, you must not value your own existance highly. Suburban Assault Vehichles have no place in a just world, yet we accept them without outrage.

Turling said...

We have (or I should say had, as the air suspension bag tore = expensive to fix) an Expedition. I was turning at a stop sign where a smart car was waiting for me to vacate the intersection. I looked down at it and my first thought was, "he would be crushed into a paste." I'm not saying that in a machismo, mine is bigger then yours way, but rather the roads are big, the cars are big, and if you're going to be out there, you had better defend yourself.

And, yes, Longwing, I would agree to a point with your observation. However, the reality is the roads are filled with big cars. That won't change. Cars since the 40's have always been big and they always will be.

The Countess of Nassau County said...

I live in one of the most heavily traveled suburbs in the nation. The parkway I travel most is loaded with twists and turns and drivers doing upwards of 75-85 miles an hour in the fast lane.

As you can imagine I see plenty of accidents on these roads. Nine out of ten of these accidents involve SUV's or minivans. I'm not really sure which is the culprit, the engineering or the greatly expanded functionality of these vehicles, which now serve as dinner table, bus, movie theater, office, etc. Either way I think the size and the activities within have so removed the driver from the task at hand it's no wonder these types of vehicles are involved in so many accidents.

Let me ask you a question, how many distracted motorcyclists do you encounter a day? Zero, because they can't give themselves permission to zone out at 70mph.

longwing said...

Toad and Turling, To be clear, I neither drive nor desire a Smart Car. I drive a mid size sedan and am comfortable doing so. Just pointing out that he who values his own life the most often values the other's the least.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Great thoughts Toad. I told my kids that the Smart Car(& those a like)are a terrific idea, if everyone were driving them.

We'd last 25 sec. driving one of those in Texas. Bicyclists & motorcyclists are treated like roadkill.

Very thought provoking post.

Anonymous said...

What a sad and strange coincidence that this is your topic for June 4th - my father died on this day back in 1982. He was riding his bicycle (preparing for an American Red Cross Charity Ride) in a bike lane and was hit by a car - which was clearly wrong on so many accounts but alas the driver survived but my father didn't have a chance.

As for large versus small cars, my take is that American cars got larger & larger for several reasons - we like a lot of room in our cars, we carry everything with us (or so we think we do), we'd like to be able to carry everyone with us (though most times we don't) and lastly it's easier than trying to make the American driver a better driver - just add more armor to protect us since we do everything but actually pay attention to the road while in the car.

Some food for thought, and you already know I'm biased here, but it is still true, the only legal weapon in the USA is a car but remember to make sure the victim is dead not maimed. Our freedom and love for the car takes precedent over life and neither the Right or the Left has ever taken up this cause. Also true, in the USA, any licensed driver can teach someone how to drive - you may have to be over 18 but I'm not sure about this. In Germany, only a professional race car driver can teach someone how to drive. As I said, food for thought.

David said...

I've driven SUVs for a while now, and honestly I love them. I love the room, and I love sitting up high. I love putting everything from furniture to groceries to dogs quickly and easily in the back.

I never gave a thought to how attentive I am as a driver...until I bought my scooter. Looking at it from that perspective, the size of the vehicles around me don't bother me nearly as much as the speed, and the cell phones. When I ride I'm really not watching cars, I'm watching drivers.

Toad said...

Anon I'm sorry for your loss. Americans could easily much better drivers, but generally we just don't care. Any civilization which allows drivers to talk on cell phones, text message..... is in danger.

I'm with David. My mirrors are my best friend.

initials CG said...

Toad, that car has been successful only in a few cities in Europe where traffic and especially parking have reached nightmare proportions. Otherwise, the car has been a total flop commercially for the very reasons you mention. Guess the American tourists kept saying, "oh!, look at that cute car again" So, some marketing genius thought to palm them off on Americans, "they'll buy anything that's european chic". Otherwise, I don't get it.

They're everywhere in Rome because you can park them in someone's crack. Pardon the french. But these so called fuel efficient eco cars are just a crock. They're as ridiculous as most suv's. People use a car because it's more convenient than walking. Despite the absurd tax on gas here in the old continent, people keep buying cars...Pity that in the U.S. it's become a necessity to have a car.

I spent 5 years without a car in the downtown. Apart from the money I saved, I never felt that angst that comes from being couped up in that tin can in traffic. With out a car, the quality of my life drastically improved. I dressed better, met more people, got into great shape, etc...

But, alas, one needs a car in the burbs...jeez! it's not even the country. The burbs may have destroyed civilization as we know it.