We’ve all been there. Rush hour. It’s hot, you just want to get home, and traffic is moving even slower than usual. Most of the slow-down is caused by rubber-neckers trying to to get a good look at that poorly maintained hooptie on the shoulder puking what’s left of its coolant or limping along on the shredded remains of that tire that’s been bald for months. Should the guy who couldn’t maintain his vehicle be fined (or jailed) for causing the traffic jam?
If you’re lucky, the steaming pile of unmaintained scrap on the shoulder doesn’t cause one of the mouth-breathers ahead of you to rear-end another one, causing an even longer delay, as they further impede the flow of traffic. In situations like this, you might think the people who couldn’t be bothered to maintain their vehicles ought to be punished for causing so much interruption to their fellow citizens’ lives.
But who is really to blame?
Is it really the poor schmuck who couldn’t afford a newer car or didn’t know how to properly maintain it? Or is it the local government, for not ensuring the school system was more about life-long learning than industrial era, assembly line memorization in pursuit of an increasingly less valuable certification? Why isn’t there cleaner, efficient mass transit in place so people who can barely afford a car might be able to go without? And why are our cities designed with where we live so far from where we work? And why, if that’s really what we want, aren’t the roads sufficient to carry all the traffic they must? Who is to blame for this?
Placing blame never solves anything.
In fact, pointing fingers is usually a good sign of someone not actually doing anything to solve the problem. See every politician currently in the news. Clearly, poor, uneducated people being unable to afford reliable transportation and adequately maintain it to be reliable who break down and cause delays are a problem. Without a doubt, the growing number of oblivious cattle with neither interest in nor ability to drive clogging our roads because they live 25 miles from the office and can’t spend 3 hours on a bus twice a day commuting are a problem. But rather than pointing fingers, shouldn’t we maybe come up with solutions?
We shouldn’t punish the vulnerable.
We should be recognizing the responsible. Instead of beating those who can’t further down, we should be lifting up those who can and do. I’m thinking there should be a graduated license structure in place. Each year, you would go to a special inspection location, pay a reasonable fee – maybe US$50-$100 – and get a complete vehicle inspection.
Once your vehicle was deemed safe (read: properly maintained) and your driving record was confirmed clear of any citations or at-fault accidents, you would get a special decal for your license and plate. If a police officer spots you passing on the right or not using a turn signal, you lose the credentials on the spot for the remainder of the year, but maybe you get a discount on your insurance and a little leniency if you’re doing 10-15mph over the posted speed limit. I mean, now they know you’re a good driver with a properly maintained vehicle, right?
We have problems to solve.
If we allow governments to penalize those unable to afford reliable cars or incapable – for whatever reason – of maintaining them, where will it end? If we allow laws which punish those most vulnerable among us, how long before others support laws which attack our weaknesses? What if they decide pre-OBDII vehicles are major causes of pollution and should no longer be allowed on the roads? How long before they restrict ALL lanes on the highway to a minimum of 2 persons per vehicle at any time?
- How do we solve the problem of people unable to afford reliable vehicles?
- How do we make being a good driver a point of pride for the average Joe?
- What should be checked at an annual inspection like this?
- What would a premium driver’s license be worth to you?