Zero Traffic Or Fatalities

The Biden maladministration wants you stuck in traffic.

CBS News tells us that, having returned from extended "paternity" leave, Secretary Buttigieg has found an issue that interests him more than addressing supply chain problems such as the hundreds of container ships parked waiting to unload at California ports:

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is vowing to help stem rising traffic fatalities, releasing a broad-based strategy aimed at reducing speed, redesigning roads and boosting car safety features such as automatic emergency braking.  [emphasis added] ...

Over the next two years, he said, his department will provide guidance as well as $5 billion in grants to states to spur lower speed limits and embrace safer road design such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. When roads become safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, it opens up transit options overall and can lead to fewer dangerous cars on the road, he said.  [emphasis added]

This is well-trodden ground in two different ways: 1) It's been tried before and 2) Such initiatives tend to divert money from less flashy, but more essential uses.

De Blasio's "Vision Zero" to Cut Traffic Fatalities

On December 22, 2020, Mayor De Blasio announced an update to "Vision zero", his 2014 plan to eliminate New York traffic fatalities by 2023 when he would no longer be in office.  Most of the announcement focused on increased use of cameras to issue speeding tickets but offered a ray of sunshine:

Seven of the eight safest years in the City's history have all happened since Vision Zero was adopted in 2014.

However, long-term success has proved elusive.  On 9/17/2021, the New York Post published "Zero vision: Traffic deaths soar as De Blasio's NYPD cuts enforcement, report shows" which reported an unanticipated consequence of the "defund the police" effort:

It's a 30-percent jump from the 211 traffic-related fatalities reported during the same 12-month period in 2020 and most deaths on city streets since 2014 when 285 people died.

The dramatic uptick in deaths and decline in enforcement come seven years into De Blasio's signature "Vision Zero" initiative, which slashed speed limits around the city and proclaimed New York's goal of no traffic-related deaths on city streets.

But that rhetoric has not been matched by action, pedestrian and cycling advocates have repeatedly charged, saying the City Hall's plans for buses and bikes fall woefully short of achieving those goals.

The article discusses a "massive 524-page Mayoral Management Report":

... the report also reveals that as the deadly driving skyrocketed, the number of summonses issued by cops dropped an astonishing 57 percent from pre-pandemic levels

But there was some good news:

Meanwhile, the city's bike lane rollout slowed down dramatically as officials only added another 65 miles - the lowest rate in at least the last five years.

Having worked in New York City, we're totally unconvinced that adding more bike lanes by taking space from lanes currently dedicated to automobiles can really help the commute.  How many workers will be willing to commute by bike when it's 90 degrees and very humid or be willing to bike through snow?

For that matter, given the massive ongoing crime wave driven by De Blasio's police-defunding policies, what are the odds that your bike will still be present and usable when you get done with work and want to use it to go home?  Your car might not be available either, but at least Grand Theft Auto is slightly harder.

The report suggests that in New York City's "Vision Zero" experiment since 2014, keeping traffic deaths down depends pretty much solely on vigorous enforcement of speeding laws.  Adding bike lanes may help, but that's a difficult case to make as speeding bicyclists impact slower pedestrians with regularly fatal results.

Enforcement of existing traffic laws makes a huge difference:

The NYPD reported writing just 298,377 violations of driving laws between July 1, 2020 and June 31, 2021, the twelve month span covered by the report [when 275 people died - ed].

That's just a fraction of the 696,012 summons cops handed out over the same time period in 2019, when the Big Apple clocked just 218 traffic-related deaths.

We very much doubt that the gun control crowd will take notice of the demonstrated beneficial effect of enforcing existing laws as opposed to passing new ones, but we can cite this experience in the future.  Of course, aggressively enforcing laws inherently leads to vastly more unfriendly interactions between police and the citizenry, so we'd prefer that this occur for crimes that matter, like murder or driving cars at night without lights.

Speed Camera Nightmare

Microsoft News reacted to Sec. Buttigieg's announcement by publishing "The speed camera nightmare that's coming to America" based on an article from the British Daily Mail.  The British version starts:

How the UK's hated war on motorists - costing drivers $56M in fines every year - provides a chilling glimpse of what's in store under Pete Buttigieg's plan [emphasis added]

Both versions discussed Fox News' reaction:

Fox News host Tucker Carlson slammed the plan as a misuse of the funds in the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill, fuming that 'you're about to get a lot more speeding tickets from robots.'

'When the country applauded $1.2 trillion going to fixing the roads, bridges and buildings, a lot of us were dumb enough to think that's what might actually happen,' he said.

As anyone who's been reading about the difficulties of correcting problems with government-funded voting machines would expect, there are difficult problems with government-funded speed cameras:

Perhaps Britain's 'busiest speed camera', however, lies 120 miles to the west [of London] in the port city of Southampton.

The speed camera, which sits on Maybray King Way, where motorists should be driving at 30mph, is estimated to have brought in more than $6.85million in fines between 2015 and 2017[emphasis added]

However, Hampshire Police revealed last year that the camera has been recording 'incorrect readings' for vehicles with a 'high flat rear' and at least two drivers have been able to prove they were wrongly caught by the camera so far.

'If I didn't have the evidence that I was going 25mph, then it would have ended up with me going to court. I'd have lost my job. That technology shouldn't go wrong. It has the potential to seriously ruin lives.'

Although slowing traffic in the vicinity of a camera generally reduces fatalaties, this isn't always the case:

Interestingly a 2013 study by the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) Foundation highlighted how cameras in some areas had actually caused accidents rather than preventing them.

A total of 21 camera sites had shown data where collision rates had risen 'markedly' since cameras were put in place.

Democrats have tried to give the IRS the right to collect any and all information from any bank account in the country regardless of any suspicion of wrongdoing, so this blatant revenue grab should come as no surprise.  How many of us want to have to create a record of our driving in order to fight back against yet another form of government interference in our daily lives?

The Double Nickel

The bike lane part of Sec. Buttigieg's strategy to cut vehicular fatalities has been tried without success in terms of meeting the stated objective and so has cutting speed limits.  Groovy History reminds us that Mr. Nixon signed a law setting a national speed limit of 55 MPH on all roads throughout the United States.

The purpose was to save both lives and fuel.  It's not possible to describe how much people hated this.  Kids saw their parents buying CBs and radar detector for the express purpose of disobeying the law. Was this widespread training in lawbreaking good for society?

As with masking, vigilantes came out of the woodwork.  We know a lady who insisted on always driving 55 MPH even in the left lane to the immense frustration of other drivers.  "They're supposed to follow the law" she'd say when criticized.

The Cato Institute studied the effects of a 55 mph speed limit and found that after a few months of the legislation the country's safety record was actually worse than had it had been before.

But almost all measures of highway safety show improvement, not more deaths and injuries since 1995. Despite the fact that 33 states raised their speed limits immediately after the repeal of the mandatory federal speed limit, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last October that "the traffic death rate dropped to a record low level in 1997." Moreover, the average fatality rate even fell in the states that raised their speed limits.

Higher speed limits have not caused one million more auto injuries. In fact, in 1997 there were 66,000 fewer road injuries than in 1995, the year before the speed limits were raised.

The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 returned all speed limit decisions to the states as should have been permitted all along. It's one more example of a group of people deciding that they know what's best for everyone and failing miserably.  The fact that higher speeds didn't result in more fatalities had no effect on anti-driver zealots, of course.  Sound familiar?

As we see it, Mr. Nixon's war on speed worked out no better than his war on drugs.  The major difference being that we eventually had enough sense to drop the "double nickel" law whereas we've kept drugs illegal to the immense benefit of drug cartels who don't have to worry about getting the recipe correct.

Misallocating Money

Secretary Buttigieg's strategy for reducing traffic fatalities, like Mayor De Blasio's, speaks of adding new bike lanes.  All those extra miles of bike lanes didn't do much for fatalities in New York, but diverting money from essential maintenance has led to additional unnecessary mayhem in Pittsburgh, another Democrat-misruled city.

When a highway bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh a few hours before Mr. Biden was due to visit to brag about his infrastructure spending bill, he and his fellow grifters wasted no time asking for more money:

"We have been so far behind on infrastructure for so many years it's just mind-boggling," Mr. Biden told a group of elected officials and first responders during a visit to the collapse site. "...We used to be number one in the world."  [That was, of course, before Democrats took over the city. - ed]

The mayor naturally called for more federal funding.  The problem with the usual sob story was outlined in a Twitter feed by a Pittsburgh resident:

In 2012, Obama announce a huge infrastructure plan and "shovel ready jobs." Pittsburgh was granted millions of dollars in funds. Instead of repairing bridges, they spent over $500 million to build 25 miles worth of light rail to carry people to Steelers games for free.

The bridge that just collapsed in the city of Pittsburgh was set to be restored in 2016. Instead of replacing the completely rusted out supports, they diverted the money to bike lanes, green energy programs and lanes for self driving cars.  [emphasis added]

You should read the entire feed.  It has pictures of rusted supports, cables that were put in as "temporary" fixes, and nets placed to catch concrete chunks falling off bridges.  It also includes a tweet that links to an article which points out misallocating money is a longstanding problem:

Pennsylvania has almost 3,000 bridges classified as structurally deficient, though state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that tally has actually been halved since 2008.

Over six years, $4.2 billion that could have helped fix those bridges has instead gone to State Police, he said.

Secretary Buttigieg loves bike lanes.  Bridges that stay up are not on his radar.  For local politicians and federal cash shovelers, it's too attractive to build bike lanes, the better for Democrats to show off their virtue to all their greedy lefty friends who'll give back a percentage of the take as bribes which we call "campaign contributions" to protect their feelings.

Who should take credit for the 10 "traffic injuries" which taxpaying citizens suffered due to repair money being diverted to "green" scams?  The Mayor?  Mr. Obama?  Mr. Biden?  Surely we jest....

The Coming Traffic Disaster

It's no surprise that Secretary Buttigieg would announce a nationwide "Zero fatalities" initiative modeled after New York's failed "Vision zero": bloviating about bike lanes and talking about "fewer dangerous cars on the road" will signal virtue and please the anti-automobile crowd, but what realistically useful effect can it have?  The New York experience shows that real results will be elusive.

What's more, other government programs foretell an increase in fatalities due to collisions between cars.  Mr. Biden issued an executive order which "would require automakers to reach a 40.4 mile per gallon fleet-wide average in sales by 2026."

The same article discusses government efforts to encourage the adoption of electric cars:

... $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill that would invest in electric vehicle charging stations and subsidize the purchase of an electric car for buyers. Officially called the American Jobs Plan, it calls for point-of-sale rebates when buying a new electric vehicle and includes funding for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations to be built by 2030.

Let's assume for purposes of discussion that we can magically conjure up enough lithium and other "rare earth" materials to make enough batteries for all those electric cars, and that the power grid will be able to charge them at least somewhat adequately.  The problem is that the only way to achieve a 40.4 MPG fleet average is to make gasoline powered cars cars smaller and lighter.  Lighter cars kill people.

CNN published "Why electric cars are so much heavier than regular cars" which tells us:

Batteries are heavy. That's why, generally, electric cars weigh considerably more than otherwise similar gasoline-powered vehicles. Take the GMC Hummer EV, for instance. The Edition 1 version, which has lots of batteries for additional driving range and power, weighs over 9,000 pounds. That's roughly three times the weight of a Honda Civic[emphasis added]

Gasoline-powered vehicles will shed metal to meet the new requirements.  Future Honda Civics will be even lighter relative to the electric Hummer than they are today.  In a collision, gas-powered cars will be squashed like coke cans.  This difference has already shown up in fatality statistics:

In terms of crash safety, that extra weight actually helps people inside electric vehicles. Insurance claim statistics show that people in electric vehicles are less likely to be injured in a crash than people in otherwise similar gas-powered vehicles.

This applies to all electric vehicles:

The Ford F-150 Lightning will weigh about 1,600 pounds more than a similar gas-powered F-150 truck. Similarly, the electric Volvo XC40 Recharge weighs about 1,000 pounds more than a gas-powered Volvo XC40.

While Secretary Buttigieg plans to add more bike lanes and otherwise repeat the De Blasio "Vision zero" fiasco, the government also plans to force gasoline-car owners into lighter, more dangerous vehicles while encouraging far heavier electric cars to add to the fatality rate.

How encouraging to know that our public servant are looking out for our welfare by recycling old ideas that are known not to work!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

bike lanes and bus lanes could renamed as "terrorist" lanes, for the obvious potential use. I know this may not be a big deal until it is. Do the Washington asshats ever think past tomorrow? Give the money back to the states with no strings. Liberal states=55mph
Red states="0" $ for no 55mph. Watch and see

January 31, 2022 9:50 PM

Assume for a moment, if you can, that policy makers like Mayor Pete are not criminals, inherently evil, or just pathologically desperate for approval.
Exactly how does the human brain conjure up the rationals required to believe in their programs for public good, which are, by definition, completed unsupported by facts, history or elementary logic?
Perhaps the assumption above is just too great a leap....

February 1, 2022 1:11 AM

Those bike lanes are designed for human powered bikes when in fact they are filled with electric powered bikes which travel much faster than regular bikes. Pedestrians now have the hazard of speeding electric bike users who routinely ignore traffic laws. Pete's policies are on a collision course with themselves.

February 1, 2022 11:58 AM

@Fred One way to look at it is that politiciane like Pete will say anything that they think wil get them votes. They know that ther are many totally anti-car voters out there, and many warmists. these ideas to cripple our transportation system are designed to appeal to the anti fossil fule faction who want us to freeze in the dark.

They have NO IDEA of the amounts of energy involved but they don't think they have to care. The politicians believe that they, exalted beings that they are, will always be comfortable, be able to eat hamburgers, and be able to travel, and it doesn't matter to them how the peasants suffer.

February 15, 2022 1:58 AM

"lower speed limits" if they think that might work, their research is wanting. Communities that lowered their speed limit on city streets saw an increase in pedestrian deaths not a reduction.

March 15, 2022 7:05 AM

I used to believe the the left was simply unaware of the "Law of Unintended Consequences"; now, I believe that they view it as the highest form of comedy, even above cosmic hypocrisy, and the most effective means yet created to explode rational minds.

March 18, 2022 12:04 AM
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