Are Cars Dangerous?

Superhuman-sized objects moving at superhuman speeds are dangerous. Inherently. But who bears this danger? Motorist liability insurance is one supposed motivator; in theory motorists are supposed to bear the cost of the risks they are inflicting on others, but has many limitations (see e.g. The Disneyland Model). In reality this risk-spreading ends up socializing the costs of driving — paid for by others, subsidized, also called an externality. Thus we get more driving, because it is artificially cheap, and more traffic death and destruction.

It is worth pointing out to nervous cyclists that the large majority of traffic death and destruction is done by drivers of automobiles to other motorists (see, e.g. the chart here). This is to be expected, of course, since the large majority of traffic is motoring.

Here are a couple of  recent, local incidents… out of control “accidents” all —

Girl critically injured, was standing on the sidewalk, May 6, 2011: Deette Lynn Perry, 54, was arrested Friday after she was discharged from the hospital, where she had been admitted following the May 6 incident, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said. Perry was in a 2004 Nissan Altima near Thomas Road and 23rd Avenue when she drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 17-year-old girl, Martos said. Police suspect Perry was impaired by drugs, Martos said. The girl suffered a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries, Martos said.


Tourist killed at Phoenix intersection The Arizona Republic, Glen Creno – Aug. 19, 2010

An Australian tourist crossing a Phoenix street was killed late Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle slammed into him, authorities said Wednesday…The SUV was moving so fast the victim was dismembered by the impact. Witnesses told police the vehicle apparently ran a red light…Ramzy Khalil, 29, of New South Wales, was hit and thrown across the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road about 10 p.m. Tuesday… Police declined to identify the driver of the SUV, who told police he had some sort of medical emergency behind the wheel. Authorities declined to say what that emergency was…The SUV driver was not seriously hurt but remained in a hospital Wednesday for treatment of the medical condition… ADOT incident 2428345 Phx FileNumber: 201001155456. (County) Prosecutors eventually declined felony charges, despite speeds of 144kph; driver Christopher Ryan Jones says he blacked out (with his foot pressing down on the gas, apparently). There was significant delay (not unusual for this kind of case) in the determination; the misdemeanor charge, 28-672, “Causing Death by moving violation” at the time had a 1 year time limit — it now has a 2 year statute of limitation.


This driver drove up ON THE SIDEWALK, killing a man, striking another, and then fled the scene. How often does this happen (running down pedestrians on the sidewalk? See also the Lance Adams killing see also killing of ‘top doc’ Richard Pavese) .           [azcentral][KOLD]

Man arrested in fatal hit & run in Phoenix, Associated Press – July 30, 2010 6:34 PM ET, PHOENIX (AP) – Authorities say a Phoenix man has been arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of a fatal hit & run accident. Phoenix police say 35-year-old Hermida Lester was walking with family members on a sidewalk north of Bell Road on Thursday night when she was hit by a car. Police say 26-year-old Jeremy Johnson apparently drove his vehicle up on the sidewalk and it struck Lester and her 20-year-old sister. They say Lester was killed and her sister sustained minor injuries. The vehicle was found abandoned a short distance away from the accident and police say Johnson apparently got a ride to a friend’s home in Mesa. Johnson was taken into custody Friday by Mesa police and booked into jail. [ Phoenix police incident number 10001062981 ]

Case CR-2010139725. sentencing minute. All case minutes. Looks like he got off light.


[ktar] Car jumps curb, kills Walgreens employee, by Jeremy Foster/News-Talk 92.3 KTAR (June 1st, 2010 @ 4:17pm)

PEORIA, Ariz. – A tragedy at a west Valley drug store Tuesday. It happened in the parking lot of a Walgreen’s near Lake Pleasant Road and Beardsley. “A Honda Accord being driven by an 87-year-old from Peoria was pulling into a parking lot, and for some reason instead of hitting the breaks she hit the gas pedal,” said Mike Tellef with Peoria Police. Tellef said that’s when the car jumped the curb. “And then struck a 65-year-old female employee of the store who was sitting on a bench taking a break,” he said. Police said the victim is Alice Fielding, who was pronounced dead at the hospital. There was no impairment involved and no charges are expected to be filed against the driver.


No charges will be filed against a 16-year-old Mesa girl who accidentally ran over and killed her 17-year-old brother in the Superstition Springs Mall parking lot on Saturday, authorities said.

Nicole M. Brock, a student at Red Mountain High School, had only been driving for four months when she dropped off her brother, Dwight J. Brock Jr., 17, shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Dwight started jumping in front of the car Nicole was driving, forcing her to slam on the brakes. Dwight was run down and killed when Nicole was unable to stop for an unknown reason, but it is possible that she may have confused the accelerator with the brake, said Sgt. Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman…

[arizonarepublic] Jan 4, 2010

Here is the incident that originally (lately) got me thinking about this issue:

Fairfax county (Virginia) out-of-control SUV kills both cyclist and its driver. [washpost] May 21, 2010, 4pm: Bicyclist Abdelouahid Chadli, 18 was killed by an out of control SUV driver Gary Anthony Thorne, 31. The SUV veered across 6 lanes of traffic, jumped a curb and hit the cyclist on a (an apparently) separated bicycle path, and continue on to hit a large tree with such force that the driver was killed.

It is not known what caused the driver to go out of control. There are no known medical conditions, but some sort of sudden medical impairment is suspected — we’ll have to wait for the investigation.

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