Re: Against Punitive Approaches to Safer Streets

Posted on November 03, 2015

This is a response to Stuart Schrader's post "Against Punitive Approaches to Safer Streets".

Punishment as a deterrent is a red herring.

If murder were no longer punished, how many of us would run off to murder someone?
If heroin were no longer punished, how many of us would run off to buy a hit?

The people inclined to commit punishable crimes are typically not deterred by the threat of punishment.

Most people do not purchase heroin because they are educated about the dangers of heroin. Most people do not murder because they have ethical compunction about harming others needlessly.

The problem of traffic safety is indeed partly physical, but it is mostly psychological. Despite laws on the books and the infrastructure on the ground, motorists DO NOT feel ethical compunctions about reckless driving (or even outright vehicular assault). The "protections" put in place to try to make it difficult for motorists to harm others in a sense legitimize their behavior. With bikes and pedestrians out of the way, motorists take this as license to behave quintessentially motorized. With protections in place, motorists are less inclined to feel personal responsibility for vulnerable demographics.

The solutions are:

  • Make cars less aspirational and non-cars aspirational.
  • Educate motorists about their responsibilities, about safety, and about the benefits of *not driving* and not driving like a psychopath.

I still assert that these problems are *cultural problems*. They are not infrastructure problems (we have sidewalks and bike lanes but people are still being killed). They are not legal problems (we have laws but people are still being killed).

We need to stop fostering a culture that creates transportation psychopaths. A psychopath is not concerned about punishment. You can't genuinely punish a psychopath.

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