L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 125, June 11, 2001
Ride the Lightning
Common Sense Legislation Could Have Saved Teen Lives
by Chris Goodwin
Special to TLE
RALEIGH, NC - A teenaged killer went on the rampage in Raleigh on the evening of May 30, resulting in four dead, including the killer, and as many as seven people wounded in what police and civic leaders have been calling a "tragedy". The weapon, a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder (an automobile popularly known as a "sports car"), was found at the scene by police. The sports car has a maximum speed of over 140mph (233 km/h); police believe the killer was driving as fast as 105mph (175 km/h) at the time of the killings. Police believe that the high speed in this case contributed to the deaths and injuries. Further details of the incident may be found at http://www.wral.com/news/796966/index.html
The Car Culture
Among automobile enthusiasts (or, as we like to call them, "car nuts") there is a car culture at work. This car culture is insidious. Young children believe it is their right and duty to one day get behind the wheel of one of these dangerous weapons. They are abetted in this by their parents, who provide only minimal safety and handling instruction before permitting their children, some as young as 15, to take an automobile out on the road, in the vast majority of cases without even any parental supervision! We believe that, had the killer's parents been more involved with their child, perhaps even been present in the automobile with their son, this tragedy might never have occurred. In fact, police believe the weapon used belonged to the driver's mother, who permitted him to take it out with her blessing!
It is estimated that there may be as many as 110 million automobile drivers and 250 million automobiles in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the year 2000 41,800 people were killed by automobiles; 8,881 of these were children ages 20 or younger.
We here at the North Carolina Automobile Safety Society believe that the death of even one child as the result of an automobile is too many. We therefore intend to introduce common sense automobile safety legislation at the next session of the General Assembly. Among the bills we wish to introduce are:
The Safe Storage of Automobiles Act would:
We also support federal legislation to raise the minimum age for possession and driving of an automobile to 18, or 21 for so-called "sports cars".
It should be obvious to all that the killer on Wednesday night was seduced by the lure of high speed. The North Carolina Automobile Safety Society believes that no one has a need to drive as fast as 140mph (the top speed of the so-called "sports car"), or even 105mph; the only possible purpose for doing so would be to break the law, as no state in the U.S. has a speed limit as high as 105mph. Therefore, we support common sense safety legislation limiting automobiles sold in this country to a maximum of 85mph (142 km/h). The legislation would also require auto manufacturers to provide a speed limiting device to owners of automobiles already on the streets that are capable of driving faster than this. Exempt from this law would be automobiles sold to the police and military.
The North Carolina Automobile Safety Society supports mandatory five-day waiting periods and background checks before permitting any automobile dealer to sell an automobile to a private citizen. The legislation would also allow the dealer to refuse to sell an automobile to any person who appears depressed, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired, and would give drivers time to cool down before driving off in such a deadly weapon.
The private sales loophole
Under the laws as they are written right now, anyone can become an automobile dealer with no training or license requirements whatsoever! Private automobile transactions take place millions of times a day without the knowledge or consent of any government agency, including at so-called "auto shows". We therefore support legislation requiring all automobile dealers to be licensed by the government, and to fall under the waiting period and background check legislation above.
Irresponsible Marketing to Children
Automobile manufacturers are utterly irresponsible in their marketing of automobiles to children. From violent movies, video games, and cartoons (cartoons?) to miniature models of cars with brand names such as "Hot Wheels", "Matchbox", and "Revell", automobile manufacturers have a long history of marketing these deadly weapons directly to children. A trip to nearly any toy store in America would show miniature automobiles, powered by battery or pedal, intended to be driven by children as young as three years old! We therefore support legislation prohibiting automobile manufacturers from irresponsibly marketing cars to children, and an immediate ban on the production of any automobile that may be driven or played with by young children. Remember, cars are not toys!
Bicycles, the "gateway drug"
Most people would never imagine any problems with bicycles. Most bicycles have a maximum speed of 25 to 30mph (42 to 50 km/h) and very few children ever have a problem with bicycles. So why are we worried about them? Studies show that nearly every person who rides a bicycle as a child eventually "graduates" to an automobile! We therefore support legislation prohibiting any child under the age of 18 from possessing or driving a bicycle.
We would like to take this opportunity to state for the record that we are not anti-car, as our opponents in the American Automobile Association have painted us, nor do we want to take away all cars. We just want to see some common sense in how automobiles are sold and used. Neither the Constitution of the United States nor the state constitutions of the 50 states provide for any kind of right to own and drive automobiles; all 50 states specify that driving is not a right but a privilege.
Remember, if saves the life of just one child....