The Freeway of Unacceptable Risk

A dreary Friday morning. The speed limit on the Mount Barker freeway, city bound direction, are reduce, although no-one around me seems to have noticed. Suddenly, around the next bend, traffic has come to a near standstill and those around me test their breaks suddenly.

For the next 10kms, we move an average of 20km/h. The reason; a two car collision on the lower side of the tunnel. On the uphill side of the road, one lane has also been made useless, so as a fire truck can park while an assessment of the scene can be made. Luckily, in this situation, no-one seems to have been severely injured. I’ve often said, “from driver to idiot: just add water!”

However, this is not the entire case. It seems almost as likely that a crash can occur in dry conditions. What we have on the freeway is a perfect example of one of the major dysfunctions of society that ultimately makes life worse for everyone else.

The reckless speeding, shoving into partial gaps and tail-gating are only too frequent on the freeway.  It’s a ridiculous combination of arrogance and ignorance. Even while we’re all reduced to a snails pace, some bozos sneak down the closed lane as long as possible, to jump the cue. Self-importance prevailing.

In a better world, each of us would have well maintained vehicles, adhere to the speed limits and keep safe braking distances between us and the car in front (in a perfect world, the need for a personal vehicle would be greatly reduced by Transit/Pedestrian Orientated Developments). We would all get to where we’re going with greatly reduced personal risk and tardiness.

However, in the real world, we accept far too much abuse of reasonable policies, designed to make life better for all, in the name of the individual.

I’m late / in a hurry!”

“It’s my money and my car, why should I get the car serviced?”

Me Me Me: another fatality.

We wouldn’t shove our way through a crowded mall, even if it got us to our destination sooner, because we are made more accountable for our actions. Yet, behind the wheel of a 1.5ton heap of metal, hurtling down the road at 120km/h, many of us feel sufficiently removed enough to become selfish. One persons act of arrogant, self-importance / bravado, raises the likelihood of negatively effecting the lives of countless others around them.

Fear of being late for work could very likely lead to being absent from work for yourself and others while making many hundreds of others late at the same time. It also raises the risk of fatality, altering the lives of many others forever.

Yet, why am I saying this? It’s all so perfectly simple that it shouldn’t need to be explained. I witnessed another needless collision this morning and am no stranger to having another vehicle less than 2m behind my own whilst travelling at 110km/h. I know that my life may not be worth much to them, but it means a great deal to me. For that reason, I’m not one to risk my own life, but are subjected to risk because of the thoughtless actions of others.

The reason I raise this point on my blog is because it seems to fit hand-in-hand with the unreasonable objection to environmental management. We often hear that, “greenies are trying to take the rights away from the individual.”

This is of course, complete nonsense. Arguing that it’s silly to exploit that land, fish communities, ground water or forests as quickly as possible, to make cash quick and, “boost the economy”, is nothing more than suggesting that we should abide by the road rules, so we all get to work on time, with lower risk of mortality. Grabbing it all up, as quickly as we can right now, will lead to unrecoverable environments that are of no worth to future generations. Working with the land, rather than forcing it into submission leads to a resource that continues, year after year, to provide valuable returns. It also provides environments that are healthier and more enjoyable.

While I crept past the two ruined vehicles, police, fire and ambulance vehicles and the relating people, I couldn’t help but feel that their scene was a metaphor to the future that creators of hot air, such as Christopher Monckton, Donna Laframoise, Jo Nova, Andrew Bolt, Anthony Watts and many others would lead us to. They argue that the scientific evidence threatens your freedom; your rights. You have, they tend to say, the right to go as hard and fast as you want. Just as with the evidence behind roadway safety, the science holds up compelling evidence to suggest that the risk is simply too great – and also there’s already an unacceptable rate of roadkill because of our driving (ie. extinction and habitat loss rates).

By not servicing and improving the car, not abiding by suggestions of what is acceptable and unacceptable risks, all in the name of self-importance, in getting to work a mere 3mins earlier, we’re simply asking for a crash. Who the hell would want to be responsible for that?

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6 thoughts on “The Freeway of Unacceptable Risk

  1. I like this post Tim but humans are to well train and the way we drive is just another symptom of the way where conditioned since childhood to put the selfwants first , luckly there are still enough people who break this to make the world liveable .
    Maybe in a 1000yrs we can have a economic system that does away with growth .

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    1. I don’t know, I think like the pecking-order-bullying, selfishness is a childish behaviour that most of us are able to move beyond in our adult life – we realise that it just doesn’t work in modern society. Unfortunately, not everyone “grows up” and it only takes a small group to increase the risk for everyone else.

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  2. Me? I blame the advertising / car industry.

    All that vision of freedom and the road and the countryside all to yourself. The car is promoted as the embodiment of individualism.

    In fact, driving is a communal activity. We go out of the home driveway and we’re part of a group of people using a particular area of a neighbourhood. The people who get frustrated and badtempered on the road are feeling a conflict between the imagined vision of driving as and when we please and the reality of maintaining your place in a queue – maybe a queue moving at 60 or 100 clicks – but it’s still a queue.

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    1. That’s a really good way of looking at – the conflict between the promoted vision and the reality. There is a perceived absence of accountability however – a bit like we find with trolls in comment treads. That, ten minutes later, a situation is all but forgotten means that a certain group of the drivers become complacent where they would be less likely to do so in other social activities – esp queues (could you imagine what would occur if people acted like they did on the road in other queues, such as in a bank or supermarkets?)

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  3. It’s ironic that people feel the environmental movement is anti-prosperity, anti-firstworldlifestyle, anti-human, anti-individual, when in fact the only reason we want to preserve nature is because we want to preserve our comfortable status quo. Real environmentalism doesn’t want to save species because they are cuddly, but because biodivesity ensures everyones well-being; it wants to stop global warming, not because the earth will die (what rubbish), but because human societies will suffer. Environmentalism is actually the human species being incredibly selfish.

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    1. I couldn’t put it better myself, I’ve often compared our reliance on biodiversity to John Donne, “no man is an island.”
      It’s the point that’s being made at the UN biodiversity convention currently happening. No-one is worried about the world dying (there are numerous species that will tolerate a more hostile world than ourselves), but that it’s comfortable and exploitable for our activities. Environmentalism is more or less intergenerational farming. Current practices offer quick returns, but at a major cost to the quality of the landscape/ecological services – it’s not a profitable return on such heavy handed exploits when we look long term.

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