Motorists, most especially those motorists who love to drive some of the magnificent vehicles available to them, are heading towards catastrophe. This catastrophe is a concept known in Australia as ‘Towards Zero’ and elsewhere in the world as ‘Vision Zero’.
It is, above all other things, a social-engineering nightmare Orwell himself would have been pleased to include in 1984 (a book which Australian state governments have been using as their Best Practices handbook for the last decade), had so vile a concept occurred to him.
It began in 1997 in Sweden, when that country’s parliament introduced a policy that required all road fatalities and serious injuries to be reduced to zero by 2020. It is based on the underlying ethical principle that “it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system”.
And so the horror began. This utopian (but in reality, completely dystopian) nonsense was seized upon by countries as the nil plus ultra of traffic management. After all, what kind of venal monster would argue against this brilliant concept? What kind of bloodthirsty death-wisher would not want zero fatalities and injuries on the road?
The problem with that kind of thinking, I would imagine is self-evident. Most road-transport systems place the responsibility for safety entirely upon the road-user. Vision Zero has undertaken to change that paradigm by emphasising that responsibility is to be shared by the people who design the roads, police the roads and also use the roads.
Do you see where this is going?
Perhaps it will help if I tell you Vision Zero suggests the maximum possible speed limit in locations where pedestrians can be struck by cars is to be 30km/h. At intersections where there is a possibility of cars colliding, the maximum speed is to be 50km/h.
On roads where there is some chance a car might collide head-on with another car, the limit is to be 70km/h. And on roads where there is no chance of a car hitting anything front on or side on, then it’s to be 100km/h.
You can just see the State governments building even larger coffers to fill with our money so they can hire even more Highway Patrol gronks to relieve us of our funds, while they use still more of our money to build roads no sentient being would wish to drive upon, and create infrastructure so beige as to be indistinguishable from a white-painted wall padded with soft white rubber.
And, what is probably worse than all of that is the fact this Vision Zero garbage is only attainable through serious social engineering. In short, society must be re-programmed with ‘right-think’, so it happily and eagerly agrees Vision Zero is the greatest thing mankind can be gifted with since the invention of fire and the internal combustion engine.
How will this social-engineering take place? The same way it has always taken place. Through the use of language and rhetoric.
Language is important, and a central tenet in the Vision Zero shit is that change takes place through language. As ideas are put into words, a basis is created for action and the rest follows.
I’m sure NSW road-users have already seen this beamed from the signs stradding our roads: ‘Drive Safely Towards Zero’. This of course goes wonderfully with the lie that that ‘Speed Cameras Reduce Fatalities By 97 per cent’, and that old saw carved from the bedrock of primal bullshit itself, ‘Speed Kills’.
It is of course propaganda. As both Lenin and Goebbels observed, a lie, repeated often enough, becomes the truth. But the truth is actually somewhat different.
It is true that addressing driver and rider training in a more meaningful way, and making it compulsory for every road-user to be extensively trained from a young age in roadcraft will go a long way to reducing our road toll.
Yes, it is that simple, but that is expensive. And not at all amenable to sexy slogans on big signs. ‘Get More Driver Training So You Don’t Drive Like An Asshat’ just doesn’t have the same zing as ‘Local Police Now Targeting Speed’, ‘Stop it…or Cop it’, and ‘We Have You In Our Sights’.
Our respective state governments feel a better way to spend our money (while taking more of it away) is to make our roads virtually undrivable by reducing speed limits to horse-and-cart era numbers. And then policing the crap out of them.
They are also keen to close down roads to all traffic and encourage the use of pushbikes, public transport, and the insensate voodoo horror of Driverless cars instead – which might be doable in a small country like Sweden, but is the stuff of madness in a place as vast as Australia.
And all of that aside, I simply cannot abide being told how to think by a government seeking to leech every aspect of joy from my drive.
I am adult enough to accept responsibility for my actions on the road. I know I may die or be maimed each time I get in a car. And I know and believe with all my heart I and I alone will be responsible for that happening (if it does), if not legally, then certainly personally.
Vision Zero is a catastrophe every road user is heading for.
It must not be allowed to rule. Ever.
The price we pay for driving on our roads is sometimes the ultimate one. Humans are fallible creatures. It’s what defines us.
I am certainly prepared to pay that price. I always have been.
If you’re not, then you have no business being on the road.
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Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.