UN Adopts Traffic Resolution amid Dire Mortality Warnings
from Louis Reynolds <email@example.com>
("Carmageddon: - the hidden war between cars and people")
New York, Oct 27 2005 4:00PM
Amid predictions that worldwide traffic deaths will soon out-
strip the deadly scourge of AIDS, the United Nations General As-
sembly resolved to mark a yearly day of remembrance for road
victims, and called on nations globally to improve road safety.
Deaths due to motor vehicles already exceed those due to armed
conflict by several fold: annual traffic deaths number more than
1,2 million, those due to armed conflict around 310,000, accord-
ing to a 2001 WHO report. Most of those killed and maimed do not
belong to the car-owning classes; overwhelmingly they are from
poor countries and poor communities in rich countries. In 2002,
for example, of all children killed, 96% were from low-income
and middle-income countries, and in rich countries the risk for
children in families without a car is twice that of children in
car owning families (Roberts I, Norton R, Jackson R, Dunn R,
Hassall I. Effect of environmental factors on risk of injury of
child pedestrians by motor vehicles: a case-control study. BMJ
Yet this carnage on the roads is only one theatre in the largely
hidden global war between motor vehicles (mainly private cars)
and people. There are at least 3 theatres in this war in addi-
tion to the carnage on the roads.
1. Oil wars, such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the
repeated attempts to overthrow President Hugo Chavez in Vene-
zuela, the botched coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, and the
struggles between communities and oil companies in Nigeria and
We can expect oil wars to escalate for 3 reasons. Firstly, the
world?s oil production is predicted to peak soon (if it hasn?t
already). Secondly, demand will continue to increase, particu-
larly in the light of rapid motorisation of China, India, Latin
America and Africa. This will mean massive increases in oil
prices, with far-reaching effects on the daily lives of every-
one. Third, the US sees control of oil as a major strategic is-
sue in terms of its foreign policies. The west coast of Africa
with its oil reserves is likely to be a contested area in future
An additional point about oil wars is that the casualties are
not seen as motor vehicle fatalities as most of them are.
2. Global ecocide: the effect of cars on global warming and cli-
mate change. Climate change, driven in part by heavy carbon di-
oxide emissions from combustion of oil, already kills an esti-
mated 160,000 people each year many more than terrorism (World
Watch Institute 2005. State of the World 2005 Trends and Facts
Changing the Oil Economy). Motor vehicles are a major contribu-
tor to greenhouse gases.
3. Social ecocide: the war against communal life and culture.
This is perhaps the most subtle and pervasive theatre of the
war. It has many facets, it is impossible to go into them in de-
tail. Fundamentally, the motor car is a vehicle of inequality,
and the only way to change this is to limit it to bicycle
speeds, as Ivan Illich has pointed out very clearly. As he said,
"Beyond a critical speed, no one can save time without forcing
another to lose it."
Our growing radical dependency on cars stems from the theory
that the motor car promotes our rights to personal mobility and
freedom. We only have to look at what happened when large num-
bers of people got into their cars to evacuate New Orleans and
Houston recently to get an idea of how the world would look if
everyone old enough to drive a car claimed that right.
We must pursue transport policies based on bicycles and good
public transport, and rid ourselves of cars. It won't be easy,
because of the massive vested interests around this issue, in-
cluding the car industry, big oil, the road industry, etc. etc.
But probably the biggest obstacle is ourselves and our car ad-