Linux, politics, and other interesting things
An article from 1999 suggested that car crashes caused a financial loss in OECD countries equivalent of 2% of their entire economies . An article from the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001 gave a conservative estimate of the cost of a road fatality at $1.5 million , it also notes that due to different analysis methods American transport economists derived a figure of $5.5 million. $1.5 million in 2001 adjusted for CPI would be close to $2 million now.
Currently that $2M cost is an externality of the car industry. Most of it is paid by the government, IE we all pay for it through our taxes. This means that there is little financial incentive for drivers and car companies to make the roads safer. Many of the attempts to legislate road safety fail due to the legal system being unable to manage the rapidly changing range of vehicles on the market.
The insurance companies have very detailed analysis of the relative safety of vehicles, so it seems that the only sensible way of enforcing safe driving is through economic measures implemented via insurance.
I believe that for every person who is killed or seriously injured on the road a fine of $2M should be levied. Every driver should be compelled to have insurance to cover such fines (driving without insurance should be illegal).
Then the government could cease being involved in regulating what types of car someone can drive. If someone who is less than 25 years old can get insurance for a turbo-charged car then it probably means that a statistical analysis suggests that the combination of driver and vehicle is likely to be reasonably safe (EG there are many turbo-charged cars on the market that are not particularly fast).
Now this will increase the car insurance costs for everyone, but it will decrease the amount of general tax money that is spent on issues related to road fatalities, which would allow the income tax rates to be decreased. This means that any tax-payer who has a good driving record and who drives a type of car that tends not to be crashed could expect to save money overall. Any tax-payer who doesn’t drive a car would save even more money.
But the main point of this idea is to increase road safety by forcing bad cars and drivers off the road. Currently defective cars are only removed from the road if police notice something unsafe about them and cite them for being unroadworthy – this only happens if it’s a problem which can be observed from outside the vehicle (EG worn tires or broken lights). In some states elderly drivers have no requirement for periodic health checks to determine their ability to drive, I know of one case of a woman who was certified as legally blind, ordered a white cane, and then drove home afterwards! I’m sure that insurance companies would implement whatever tests are necessary to reduce the risk of being hit by multiple $2M fines from a single crash.