Cars as a Deadly Weapon

Feb 20 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm sorry. This is A Thing for me. Cars and drinking. Cars and texting. The arrogance of not thinking about others.

Anthony DePalma wrote a short NYTimes op-ed called "Did a Text Kill My Brother". His piece is not only well-reasoned, it is reasonable. In the same place I would have been crying and screaming and wanting the head of a "young waitress at a Monmouth County country club" on a platter. Actually, I did.

In the end, this woman who quite likely killed someone walked away with "several traffic violations, including a $100 fine for texting while driving" and a 90 day suspension of her driver's license. For my family it was 9 years in jail for a chronic drunk driver.

The problem in DePalma's case was that the there was not an exact match between the time of texts and the time of the accident. 90 seconds difference.  There were eye witnesses, including a police detective, retrieved phone records and an admission that "I might have looked down".

DePalma's article is a calm call for more explicit laws about what constitutes texting while driving. I admire his reserve, his taking this tragedy and trying to make something better for people in the future.  I think this young woman who killed his brother was selfish, arrogant, and far too concerned about herself. We won't know whether she ever learned or grew from this. It would be nice to think that she did. But there are actions that make me think not: she tried to erase her texts. There was no data to suggest that she owned up to the consequences of her actions. Personal  responsibility is not necessarily a strong trait in the American public. OTH, finding hope were we can,  this story suggests that at least some people got the message.

Cars are 4000 pounds of unyielding metal. When they hit people, walking or on bicycles or even in other cars, they are moving and have significant momentum and force. We let children (and 16 year olds are children) and irresponsible adults (40 year olds with 5 DUI convictions are irresponsible) use these devices with impunity. We, as a society, argue about access to guns. We think, as in movie ratings, that sexuality is more detrimental than violence. We are only now getting to the point where car deaths are approaching gun deaths:


cars v guns


American society argues about morality in terms of letting two people in love marry because its not "Christian". But where the hell is morality of children who kill, our teaching to these children (aka driver's ed), and what we, as a society are doing about cars a lethal weapons?  Many things are very wrong in world.

5 responses so far

  • MCA says:

    This, a thousand times.

    Any time my wife is substantially late driving somewhere, I start worrying that exactly this has happened, and it's safe to say it's one of my worst fears (in part because it is, as you point out, such a realistic fear). It's made worse because we refuse to text or call in the car, which is good but means I can't hear from her unless she pulls off into a gas station or parking lot to let me know she's late.

  • Ass(isstant) Prof says:

    I'm with you, but making it about texting and driving minimizes the real issue. The issue is power, "othering," and inattentiveness. In a car, one feels powerful, those poor saps on foot or bikes are "others," and not like you. They are not as important. This last point is clear in how we've built our cities.

    It's pretty apparent from police records, not to mention simple newspaper reporting that one can kill with impunity in the US if one adheres to two rules: 1) be sober and 2) repeat, over and over, "I didn't see him/her.

    It matters not whether you should have seen the person. What's backward in our society is that we place the blame and responsibility on the victims:

    Watch for cars, wear bright clothes, make sure you don't walk in/near the street.

    Shouldn't the person wielding the deadly weapon have the responsibility to ensure it doesn't kill anyone? We expect that much of gun owners. The way we treat driving it's akin to someone getting shot and blaming the victim for running into the bullet.

    OK, done ranting. Sorry. I've been run down from behind by drivers, assaulted, threatened by police, run off the road by police, assaulted, hit from the side, harassed by police, and more for choosing to be human powered most of the time. I do own and drive two motor vehicles, so I see that side too.

  • Ass(isstant) Prof says:

    How to kill someone in the US and get away with it:

    1) Be sober at the time
    2) Hit the person with a car
    3) Repeat "I didn't see him/her," over and over.

    You'd think with the deadly power of an automobile, our society would require responsibility. Something like that which we discuss for guns.

    But I guess not. Texting isn't really the issue, privilege and power are.

  • Ass(isstant) Prof says:

    Sorry about the double post. A minor connectivity issue made me think the first rant didn't make it, so I went for a shorter one. Feel free to 'moderate' one away. Or both, it's your blog.

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