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What would you say if I told you that the American government has permitted, even fostered, the construction of a mechanical device which claims the lives of over 40,000 healthy Americans each year? What if I told you that you have probably been coerced by society into using this device almost every day for your entire life? What if I told you this device was nothing less than the ordinary American motor car?
You'd probably call me a liar. How can 40,000 people possibly lose their lives each year on our nation's roads, you'd ask. Aren't these the safest, most well-loved and lovingly maintained roads in the free world? Aren't Americans the most carefully trained and highly skilled motorists ever to take the wheel? Aren't our cars the pinnacle of modern engineering know-how? Above all, if 40,000 people died in pointless motor vehicle accidents last year - a number that exceeds by an order of magnitude, the death toll of any other disaster that year, natural or man-made - wouldn't this tragedy be more widely reported? Wouldn't the government be spending billions to correct this situation?
40,000 souls per year. Take a deep breath and try to comprehend this number. How many people do you know? How many people will you know throughout your life? If you live to be eighty years old, three million people will lose their lives on America's roads in your lifetime. There are only 300 million Americans alive today. Imagine one out of every hundred people you will know throughout your life dying in a motor accident. This is precisely what these statistics tell us will happen. One in every hundred men. One in every hundred women. One in every hundred children. Of the children in your life, how many could you bear to see lose their lives to America's death machines? Most people could not happily tolerate the death of a single child, let alone one in hundred, yet each year our government gives its tacit support for this needless sacrifice by refusing to take action to prevent it.
We should not be forced to trade our children's lives for the convenience of personal motorized transportation. Such a trade does not adhere to the principles upon which our nation was founded. It is time for the American government to take decisive action.
I believe that this problem has two sides: prevention and rehabilitation. With sweeping changes in both of these areas, our government might just be able to repair several decades of legislative neglect, and make good on their obligations to the American people.
It is no secret that fully two thirds of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by young men under the age of twenty five. There are already campaigns in most states to increase the minimum driving age for men to keep potentially dangerous drivers off the streets until they reach an age at which they can be trusted to drive safely. While these campaigns deserve our utmost support, they are but one slice of the prevention pie. Education does not begin and end at the driving academy.
Education for most people begins when they are introduced to driving as children, through television, movies and increasingly, computer games. The media images of driving that are presented to our nation's youth are creating a culture of reckless drivers. Thanks to movies in which hour long car chases take place with absolutely no consequences for the drivers or the passers-by, our children are taught that driving dangerously is a mark of manhood. Worse yet, computer game driving simulations actively teach children to drive like maniacs, demanding maximum speed and minimum adherence to road laws in order to win. Games like "Need for Speed", "Test Drive" and "Gran Turismo" all teach children that best driving practice involves running red lights, ramming cars and driving on the wrong side of the road. Most of these games don't even include turn signals!
I propose that steps be taken to correct our nation's attitude towards cars. The car chase should be banned from the movie industry, and replaced with safer alternatives such as bicycles and running. Not only would these eliminate the acceptance of dangerous driving among young people, it would encourage them to get good, healthy exercise. Of course, these changes to the movie industry will be a difficult and lengthy process. They will involve carefully editing every single car chase from every film ever released, or in the few cases where the car chase is vital to the plot of the movie, the film could be slowed down, reducing the apparent speed of the cars to be acceptable to the law.
Computer games are an easier problem to fix, since computer games more than one year old tend not to be played anymore. For this reason, changes to the computer game industry do not need to be harsh or drastic. Unlike movies, computer games can actually be quite helpful in producing better drivers. The computer game manufacturers can simply replace their old "illegal street racing" games with new lines that encourage careful, safe and legal driving. Points should be given for correctly indicating turns and lane changes, remaining on the right side of the road and within the lane markings, for stopping at stop signs and executing proper reverse parking manoeuvres, amongst other driving skills.
These measures alone will not be enough to counteract the impulsive nature of many drivers. Everyone knows how tempting it can be to rush through yellow lights, rather than stopping to wait for the green. Despite the illegality and risk of death, millions push their luck at intersections every day. Christian drivers are protected from this temptation by the ever watchful eye of God, and understand that their transgressions, however minor, do not go unobserved. What of the secular drivers who dominate our roads? Since our current political apparatus is not willing to erect road signs proclaiming the omnipresence of the Lord, we must seek a solution that preserves the separation of church and state. Modern digital technology provides the answer.
With digital cameras becoming increasingly inexpensive, it is astonishing that the government has not yet provided a system for monitoring the nation's roads. How easy it would be, in the event of an accident, to determine which drivers are to be blamed. Special cameras could also be invented to record the license plates of drivers who run red lights, exceed the speed limit or change lanes without indicating. Under the ever watchful eye of the government's cameras, I think a lot of reckless drivers would clean up their act quick-smart!
In fact, it is my belief that all vehicles should be fitted with cameras and tamper proof black box systems similar to those used in the airplane industry. These should record every move the car makes while on the road, every action the driver makes inside the vehicle and everything that takes place outside. These would be a boon to police officers charged with investigating vehicular offenses. It would even be possible to institute spot checks of these black box systems, secretly via the internet, to ensure that drivers remain on their best behavior at all times.
It will be inevitable under the new system that a larger number of drivers will be brought before the courts than we have seen in any previous years. The question before us is, what do we do with these scofflaws? Fines have proven ineffective. License suspensions are an insult to freedom. Traffic school is simply too brief to offer any useful re-education and too unobtrusive to the offender's lives to provide effective punishment.
Public shaming may be the best penalty for misdemeanor offenses. Traffic violators could have their cars permanently painted with slogans proclaiming their incompetence as a driver, and the hazard that they pose to others on the road. These slogans would serve the dual purpose of a slap on the wrist for minor traffic criminals and a warning to legitimate road users.
For serious or repeat offenders, I propose a nationwide system of driver re-education camps. These should be built on unused land, such as deserts, to afford the maximum space for driving courses. Since these camps are intended as punishment, they should be made as unpleasant an experience as permitted under the constitution. The drivers are there to be remade as responsible citizens, not to have fun. Punishing schedules of instruction should fill the twelve hour gap between the breakfast and dinner meals. The food should be flavorless and the quarters cramped and spartan. Personal effects should be confiscated upon entry to the camp. Driver re-education camps should be an unforgettable learning experience, and one that graduates will do anything to avoid repeating.
When will we realize that the duty of care for the lives of our young rests with each and every one of us? That when we take the wheel, we are taking the lives of countless American children in our hands, too? When will the American government wake up to the senseless loss of life that it countenances each year by refusing to institute serious preventative measures to ensure our children's safety?
If America is ever to enjoy safe highways again, it is up to the American people to pressure the American government to accept these measures. Any person who does not acknowledge the one in every hundred American's who die each year -- a number which includes countless American children - I believe that person is not an American. Any person who does not demand justice for our countrymen who are murdered on the roads by lax driving and America's disinterested government - that person is not an American to me, either. Remember, we have the opportunity to save the lives of countless children; it's up to us to do something about it.