Our beloved cars – the price we pay

Since the automobile age began, over 17 million men, women and children have died worldwide as the result of this mobile metal box.

Certainly any other invention which had killed such a great number of people would be heavily scrutinised by the public and placed in the spotlight for serious questioning. Despite the given statistics, we justify the use of our cars at any cost.

Public enemy

  •  Traffic accidents cause at least 500,000 deaths every year worldwide. By 2020, traffic accidents are expected to become the third largest cause of disability and premature death after clinical depression and heart disease and way ahead of war or HIV which gain more attention.
  •  In 1995, the Malaysian Ministry of Health reported that traffic accidents caused 10.22% of death in all government hospitals in Peninsular Malaysia, ranking as the second highest principal cause of death after cardio-vascular diseases. Traffic accidents ranked third, at 10.88%, of the principal causes for hospitalisation.

We subsidise private car owners

  •  The public pays and subsidises an average car to a tune of US$5,000 per year. The cost covers the total impact of the car over all stages of its life cycle, including the external costs of all forms of pollution, accidents, noise, road building and maintenance, parking and other highway facilities, etc.
  •  In the USA, the estimated external costs (including air pollution, climate change, security costs of importing oil, congestion, accidents, noise, land loss) add up to about US$126.3 billion (RM479.94 billion).
  •  In 1992, Pollution Probe carried out a study of the costs of the car in Ontario, Canada, and placed the estimate at over US$4.5 billion (RM17.1 billion). This included costs of highway construction and maintenance, automobile-related interest on the provincial debt, healthcare costs and car-related policing. And additional US$3.75 billion (RM14.25 billion) was spent on external, variable, and indirect car-related costs which included: loss of farmland, crop damage due to ground-level ozone; loss of productivity due to delays, injury and death; and environmental damage due to acid rain.
  •  In Ontario, Canada, government study estimates that car crashes cost Ontario US$9 billion (RM34.2 billion) annually.

Most toxic economic activity

  •  The entire cycle of the automobile, which encompasses its manufacture, operation, and maintenance, contributes more to toxic waste generation than does any other form of economic activity.
  •  Each car produced in Germany (where environmental standards are among the world’s highest) produces 25,000kg of waste and 422 million cubic metres of polluted air in the extraction of raw materials alone.
  •  Cars burn almost 50% of the world’s fossil fuels, and is responsible for 70% of the world’s man-made carbon monoxide. Auto air-conditioning is responsible for more than 10% of the CFCs that are destroying the ozone layer.
  •  The United States of America department of public health blames 60% of air pollution on the car.
  •  The American Lung Association reports that air pollution from motor vehicles causes US$40 to US$50 billion (RM152 – RM190 billion)in annual health care costs.

At walking speed

  •  The typical American devotes more than 1500 hours a year (which is 30 hours a week, or 4 hours a day, including Sundays) to his/her car. This includes the time spent behind the wheel, both in motion and stopped, the hours of work to pay for it and to pay for gas, tires, tolls, insurance, tickets, and taxes. Thus it takes this American 1500 hours to go 6000 miles in the course of a year. Three and a half miles take him or her one hour. In countries that do not have a transportation industry, people travel at exactly this speed on foot, with the added advantage that they can go wherever they want and aren’t restricted to asphalt roads.
  •  When everyone claims the right to drive, everything comes to a halt, and the speed of city traffic plummets — in Boston as in Paris, Rome, or London — to below that of the horsecar; at rush hours the average speed on the open roads falls below the speed of a bicyclist.

Destroys public spaces and friendship

  • The automobile improved the speed and distance one could travel between destinations but weakened the spaces in between, rendering them dead public spaces. Ultimately we are left with isolated, disjointed destinations scattered across a huge urban terrain sustained by an indispensable road system which serves as their lifeline.
  • According to a study conducted in San Francisco, residents residing on streets with light-flow traffic (2,000 vehicles per day) had three friends and six acquaintances on that same street; on the other hand, those residents living on heavy-flow traffic streets (16,000 vehicles per day), had only 0.9 friends and three acquaintances.

Shockingly inefficient use of space

  • In Beijing roughly 56% of the road space was being consumed by private vehicles, company cars and taxis, although these moved less than 10% of the passengers. More than 90% of the motorised passenger traffic was moved by the bus fleet, while consuming only 25% of the road space.
  • One single occupant car requires 75 times the amount of urban space as a pedestrian, 20 times that of a cyclist, and 13-40 times that of rain transit.
  • Car occupied land takes up shocking proportions of most cities: 23% of London, 29% of Tokyo, 44% of Los Angeles.
  • Parking lots are empty 80% of the time and between parking spaces at home, work and shopping center, the average car uses 3 times the space of the average home in the United States of America.