Yet, as we wrote a while ago, scooters aren’t the issue. They’re merely symptoms, exposing the real culprit: decades of dangerous, inflexible, car-centric street design. When scooter riders (or for that matter bike or skateboard riders) don’t have anywhere safe to ride, many will end up using the sidewalks. And it doesn’t take very many to cause issues given, again, terrible street design with tiny sidewalks.
So scooter injuries are laying bare city complacency in car proliferation and negligence in designing and protecting any other forms of mobility like biking, walking, scooting, wheelchair-ing, etc.
Which brings us to our main point.
Where is the class action lawsuit against cars?
Scooter injuries are easy to point out since they’re so new. The damage that cars cause on the other hand is so overwhelmingly enormous and commonplace that it’s hard for anyone to wrap their minds around, making the issue almost an abstraction.
The phenomenon of being absolutely blind in assigning blame to cars is made especially clear in the case of the victims of car tragedies, when the car isn’t really considered a culprit. Instead, we refer to them as “accidents.” Or we assign blame to individual drivers.
Yet when we know that year over year, over 1 million die from cars pummeling people all around the world, when do we collectively stop blaming each other and shift our attention to the real murderers? (Apologies for the hyperbolic language, but given those genocidal numbers, that adjective seems quite accurate.)
Car manufacturers and cities are the real culprits here.
Car manufacturers have a legendary track record for ignoring the senseless carnage their existence has thrust upon millions of people.
We know this from the days they fought tooth and nail against safety improvements like seat belts, airbags, or rollovers protection. After tremendous pressure and the heroic efforts of Ralph Nader and countless others, such safety measures were eventually incorporated into automobiles.
However, passenger injuries and deaths are merely the tiny tip of the iceberg in the laundry list of the automobile’s crimes against humanity.
- Cars “are responsible for 1.25 million deaths and 20-50 million injuries,” (CDC) with “almost half of all deaths on the world’s roads…among those with the least protection – motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.” (World Health Organization)
- Cars are a leading contributor to carbon emissions. And “ esearchers believe that global warming is already responsible for some 150,000 deaths each year around the world and fear that the number may well double by 2030” (Scientific American)
- Cars are polluters and first/secondhand killers of epic proportions: “Air Pollution Kills 7 Million People a Year” (Bloomberg)
We could go on about how cars cause sprawl, disenfranchise the most vulnerable (the poor, the disabled, the elderly), turn us all into angry monsters, kill hours of our lives in traffic, but lets stick with the more imminent issues of car slaughter that we listed above.
All this senseless human tragedy should be laid directly at the feet of automobile manufacturers.
Cities and Governments
Cities, as well as the federal government, have, for decades aided and abetted the proliferation of automobiles. Whether it was the federal Interstate Highway System (Vox) or the city by city selling of our public streets to big oil and big auto with wide, car centric street design and mandatory car parking requirements, our governments are direct accomplices in the death of countless of millions.
Our government institutions and officials have not only actively facilitated the infestation of the automobile, they have failed to protect any other mode of transportation and the folks who don’t drive. They failed to protect the vast network of streetcars that were commonplace decades ago, remorselessly paving over their tracts. And they failed to protect pedestrians and cyclists, some cities going so far as to negligently ignore their own bike plan
So we ask again, where are the class actions against auto manufacturers and governments?
We are not legal experts, but might we suggest looking to the history of cigarette litigation for legal precedent and for strategies of how to prosecute toxic, deadly, and massively well-funded industries.