The Solution to Car Crashes is Fewer Cars

The nineteen-vehicle string of wrecks on I-185 last month has sparked a discussion about what, or who, is at fault. Like many of these types of problems, we tend to dance around the most obvious answer. Our infrastructure is inherently dangerous, and every day it is just a new crash waiting to happen. The best solution to reduce crashes is simple: we need fewer cars on the road.

Don’t be fooled by the idea that we can just add more lanes or more roads. More cars will just fill the lanes, they will go faster, congestion will worsen, crashes will increase, and then we will try to build more roads again. This isn’t hypothetical. It’s a cycle that has continued for decades now.

And don’t think that ride-sharing or self-driving cars will save us. Although a computer may be a better driver than a human, these trends will only worsen the fundamental problem. When riding a car becomes so frictionless that anyone with a credit card can instantly take one anywhere, what will stop that from producing a new wave of congestion?

Our society’s addiction to the automobile won’t be solved by technology, but by civility. We need to build our cities to accommodate humans, not machines. City planners need to prioritize walking and biking paths. Businesses need to build themselves near the people they serve, not an interstate’s drive away. Columbus is making progress with our bike lanes and the Dragonfly Trail, but we still have a lot of work to be done.

Until we face the reality that more cars will always equal more carnage, then any effort to improve our transportation will be misguided at best. Calm the traffic. Reduce the lanes. No new roads.