Tim Bousquet’s war on cars

  Canadian highway fatalities 1991 – 2010

Highway Fatalities 2

Tim Bousquet, city-dwelling publisher of the lively Halifax Examiner, has let his hatred of the demon automobile get the better of him. In his latest anti-car screed, he writes:

…[T]he high rates of road slaughter have become accepted, simply taken as an unavoidable tragic part of life…

A few minutes with Google would have demonstrated the absurdity of this proposition.

The 1965 publication of Ralph Nader’s groundbreaking Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile touched off a revolution in automobile design, highway design, and drunk-driving prosecutions. This three-part revolution produced a spectacular reduction in highway accident and fatality rates. For example:

  • For example, in Ontario, where figures are readily available, motor vehicle fatalities fell from 4.48 per 10,000 licensed drivers in 1970 to 1.02 per 10,000 drivers in 2001—a 77 percent decline over three decades. (Source: University of Ottawa Medical School.)
  • Nationwide, the absolute number of fatal collisions plummeted from 3,228 in 1991 to 2,000 in 2010, a 38 percent decline over two decades, even as the total number of miles driven rose. (Source: Transport Canada.)

Ironically, the iconoclastic Bousquet’s crusade harkens back to the dowdiest days of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, when highway safety was one of the few issues the paper’s establishment-coddling editorial board could be counted to get excited about. Cape Breton songwriter Leon Dubinsky’s “Don’t Let This Be Your Last Holiday Weekend” takes its title from a Chronicle-Herald headline that could have appeared on the eve of almost any official holiday in the 1960s or ’70s.

Bousquet doesn’t drive rarely drives.* He gets around Halifax, admirably, by foot and municipal bus. He also typifies the mindset, endemic to Halifax-based journalists, that views rural Nova Scotia and the 63 percent of Nova Scotians who live there as expensive inconveniences.

To state the obvious, most Nova Scotians need a vehicle, or ready access to one. As an Examiner reader pointed out in a comment on today’s post, “we have a gigantic country, with a relatively low population density,” and that’s why we have a “car culture.”

Bousquet plans to step up the Examiner’s coverage of “highway carnage.” By all means, let’s step up efforts to make vehicles, highways, and drivers safer. But can we please ditch the city-centric moralizing and Carrie Nation evangelism, in favour of facts?

Correction: as tweeted by Tim Bousquet, “I do drive, and own a car, a 1998 Honda. I mostly take the bus & walk in the city, however.”