[extropy-chat] SUV versus sedan versus motorcycle

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Fri Aug 20 04:34:00 UTC 2004

On Aug 19, 2004, at 4:26 PM, Brett Paatsch wrote:
> But IF there are statistics that show that some peoples choices
> actually ARE increasing the overall risk on public roads to people
> other than themselves, then what could be the possible grounds
> for either making or declining to make laws aimed at shifting the
> hazard away from that class of road users who are being placed
> at increased risk through no fault of their own?
> I think there may be some folk that don't want any laws at all
> even ones that were based on good statistics and sound public
> policy - this seems irrational to me.

You are trying to address the symptoms and ignoring the cause.  The 
vast majority of all accidents are caused by people being careless 
and/or stupid.  The choice of vehicle may affect the damage pattern, 
but it wasn't the choice of vehicle that caused the damage to happen.  
You can take away the person's SUV and give them a Prius and you won't 
be stopping any accidents, you'll just have a different kind of carnage 
with a different distribution.

There are many different dimensions to the problem, which you still 
haven't figured out.  If all vehicles on the road were identical, it 
would more evenly distribute the carnage, something you apparently 
champion.  If you maximized the utility of a vehicle for a given 
person, you would expect a widely varying range of vehicles on the road 
even if you leave personal taste out of the picture, and suboptimal 
utility is often unsafe as you get closer to the edges.  Most drivers 
only have competence at driving specific types of vehicles, and in a 
significant number of cases, no vehicles.  The typical road hazards a 
person faces and their probabilities varies widely from locale to 
locale.  Vehicle cost is another major factor, since increased safety 
comes at increasing cost and diminishing returns.

What you want to do is optimize the entire driving world to maximize 
YOUR utility to the detriment of everyone else.  For a big portion of 
the world, whatever you want to drive is less safe, less useful, and 
more expensive overall.

In short, you are being authoritarian and selfish.  Selfish is okay, 
but you can cram the authoritarian part.  I'm not going to sacrifice 
substantial safety and utility in my life so that you can have an 
extremely marginal increase in your safety when you choose to drive on 
the roads just because it makes you feel better.  The universe doesn't 
revolve around your desires.

If you want to live in a padded room your whole life, go right ahead.  
The rest of us will continue doing things, recognizing that every 
increase in utility comes with a risk.  Sometimes the increase in 
utility is worth the risk, sometimes it is not, but who are you to 
decide whether or not that is the case.  If you don't like the risks of 
driving, don't drive.  Most people find the utility worth the risks 
whether there are SUVs on the road or not.

j. andrew rogers

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