Documents of moronity

The Finnish Automobile Association (Autoliitto) is a tame pet of the Traffic of the Ministry, and rather lousy as a defender of car-owners' rights. However, their monthly magazine, Moottori, has in each issue a list, with brief descriptions, of all fatal road accidents that occurred in the same month one year ago. This is a gem.

Reading these laconic descriptions, you start - at the very latest - to understand the enormous gap between how people get killed on the roads, and how this is used as grounds for more control and taxation. Little of the actions taken up by the state really help in preventing these deaths. The investigative boards never arrive at the correct outcome "job well done, Darwin award granted". Instead, they propose measures that just collect more money from ordinary drivers who do sometimes make mistakes in traffic and drive a bit faster than the speed limit, but do not take absurd, senseless risks like many of these guys.

And then there are the few freak accidents that you may or may not blame on someone, but which are in any case very hard to prevent, and which are just tragedies.

Let's take the list of July 2009:

  • A man, age 44, drives 70 km/h, in a 50 km/h zone, in dark and wet conditions, under influence of alcohol and drugs, and does not wear a seat belt. He hits a traffic light pole and a tree, and kills himself.

  • A man, 32, drives under influence of alcohol and drugs, in the dusk, between 120-150 km/h in a 80 km/h zone, loses control, rolls over, and a woman passenger (guess: no seat belt) falls out of the car and dies.

  • A man, 85 years, does not realise that the oncoming trucks, which are transporting a pre-fabricated house, have a payloads that are much wider than normal. He ignores the warning car that precedes the transportation, hits the second of two trucks (or, to be exact, the house carried by the truck), and dies. Both the prefabricated house slices and the old man were driving slightly above their speed limits (60 and 80 km/h, respectively).

  • A man, 25 years, rides a Suzuki GSX-R1000, overtakes a car in poor visibility at very high speed of 120-130 km/h, in a 80 km/h zone, loses control, flies to the trees and dies.

  • A man, 51, hits an oncoming truck and dies. Not an accident, clearly intentional - the man had had mental problems and had threatened suicide, and appears to have intentionally steered at the truck.

  • A man, 62, falls asleep while driving 75 km/h on a 80 km/h road and hits an oncoming truck, and dies.

  • A woman, 26, hits solid rock at 155 km/h, no seat belt. Clear suicide.

  • A woman, 18, comes to a crossing with some other traffic. She does not see a 125cc motorbike which is ridden by a man, 60, and bumps into him. The man slides on the road, is hit by oncoming traffic and dies in hospital.

  • A man, 54, drives with a woman, 53, in the dark, on a highway. The man sees an oncoming car that has stopped, and drives on, just slows down a bit and switches to low beam headlights. Hits an elk. (That's why the other car had stopped.) The woman dies.

  • An 18-year-old man drives with his 17-year old pal, crosses a highway ignoring a STOP sign, and is hit by a Mercedes that drives on the highway. The driver is killed.

  • A man, 18, drives at night, drunk, tired, loses control at a bend, hits trees, dies.

  • A man, 63, runs away from the police in a BMW 750, does 120 km/h on a small road, loses control, hits a tree, dies. The police was chasing him because he was on their wanted list and was spotted in traffic. The man had a history of alcohol and drugs misuse and was slightly intoxicated, but not over the DUI limit.

  • A man, 63, drives calmly, until he slowly drives off the road to a field, and dies of a stroke. The woman riding with him is apparently unharmed but she must have been shocked. This was death due to illness, not a traffic accident, although it happened in traffic.

  • A 85-year-old man comes to a familiar railway crossing very slowly, but does not see a freight train coming at 40 km/h, nor does he hear the warning horn used by the train driver. The old man is killed by impact.

  • A woman, 27, drives to a railway crossing with a girl, 9. Does not stop although there is a STOP sign, does not see the train that comes. Bum. The girl dies. Presumably, the driver was her mother or other relative.

  • A man, 28, on drugs, does 90 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, makes incorrect steering moves and loses control, rolls over, falls out of the car because does not wear seat belt, and dies. A passenger, who wears seat belt, is slightly injured.

  • A man, 19, is distracted or falls asleep on a highway in 120 km/h zone, no speeding. Hits a railing which does not flex out as specified, and the V70 is damaged severely. A woman passenger, 51, dies.

  • A man, 20, drives at night, 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone (intoxicated but inquiry not complete yet), loses control and hits tress. Driver and a 17-year-old passenger are killed.

  • A queue on a highway, a 46-year-old truck driver does not keep a safe distance and when the queue stops, he hits a motorbike, killing a 59-year-old passenger and injuring the 59-year-old biker.

  • A car turns left, does not see a biker who comes the other way at high speed. Biker: too much speed, driver: a misjudgement. 29-year-old biker dies.

  • A woman, 62, hits an oncoming truck and dies. Reason unknown.

  • A man, 46, runs away from the police, drunk, drives off the road, dies.

That was July. August 2009 has even more intoxicated and severely self-destructive Darwin awardees, plus a couple more strokes, and some more complex, tragic accidents that are the result of many small things.

Then, what do the investigative boards propose? Lowering the DUI limit to 0.02 %, lower speed limits, more training to drivers. Bah. How many of the people killed in July 2009 would have been held back by that? Those who were DUI were DUI already with the current DUI limits, and it didn't stop them. One was with some alcohol but under 0.05% limit; since he was running away from the police already now, I sincerely doubt that a lower DUI limit would have made him stop and talk nicely to the officers.

Same with speed limits. So many of the cases involve outlandish risks where people just completely ignore not only the speed limit, but also any sense of reality. What will lower speed limits achieve? The only outcome is that everyone will start to consider them nuts, and breaking them will be even more acceptable than it is today.

And then there are the suicides. People often kill themself with their cars; it takes just a moment's decision to turn the wheel - although if it is a truck that you hit, not a solid object, that is really a dastardly thing to do, because the truck driver has to live with what happened even if you don't.

You could ban cars, but that does not help. People will jump from a bridge. You could ban bridges, but then people would find some other ways to kill themselves. The end of this road is not just a nanny state; it's a state where everyone is tied to a bed, in diapers and force-fed through pipes, just to avoid any chance of harming themselves. That's not worth living.

I would say that the single thing that has helped in reducing road deaths is not the more restrictive limits, controls and general pestering of ordinary people. What has helped is that car manufacturers have improved the safety of vehicles that they make. Nowadays people often survive really impressive accidents - if they just wear a seat belt.

And what has the state been doing? Trying to make it as difficult as possible to import safe cars, even resorting to methods that are clearly illegal under EU legislation. The tax revenue is holier than life.

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