Spring 2004, p.21
Finnish Meat Head Speeds and Loses Big
A driver in Finland caught
driving at 50 mph in a 23 mph zone has been fined $200,000. Jussi Salonoja, the
27-year-old heir to his family-owned sausage business, was fined according to
Finland’s policy of relating fines to income. With tax office data showing
Salonoja earned around $8 million in 2002, he was given a world record speeding
fine. If he does not successfully challenge the ticket, Salonoja’s fine will
more than double the existing record of $96,000 also given to a Finn in 2000.
Authorities in Italy banned
cars from more than 100 towns and cities one Sunday in early 2004 to help cut
pollution. Some cities offered public transport free of charge. The ban included
Milan and Rome, where a long period of calm weather had allowed smog levels to
rise. Traffic was banned from the inner city in Rome between 10 am and 5 pm.
Read the latest news on the reducing automobile dependence.
London’s four mayoral
candidates agree on little but they are united on one front for the forthcoming
election: all of them have pledged their support for a ten-point cycling
manifesto drawn up by the London Cycling Campaign. This includes 20 mph limit in
all streets where Londoners live, work or shop, and free cycling training for
every schoolchild. Cycling in Central London has increased by 20% since the
congestion charge was introduced.
A report released last month
from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) finds a clear and highly
significant link between roadway capacity and air pollution from cars and
trucks. The report, “More Highways, More Pollution: Road-building and Air
Pollution in America’s Cities,” analyzes Federal Highway Administration data on
major roadway capacity and Environmental Protection Agency data on air
pollution, and reviews the current academic literature examining road building
and traffic congestion. Contrary to claims by the American Highway Users
Alliance that adding roadway capacity will reduce tailpipe emissions, the PIRG
report shows that road building actually exacerbates air pollution by inducing
additional motor vehicle travel. Emission reductions achieved through improving
traffic flow are outstripped by the overall growth in miles traveled. According
to PIRG’s analysis, if large metro areas continue to expand roadway capacity
over the next decade by 14.6% (the average rate of growth for urban areas during
the 1990s), they could expect to see emissions of smog-forming pollutants grow
by nearly 11%.
Immediately after the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, Americans afraid to fly took to the nation’s highways,
a decision that many experts on risks said could be a fatal error: Driving 1,000
miles poses a greater risk of deadly accidents than flying the same distance.
Statistics show the risk experts were right. In the first analysis of U.S.
Department of Transportation data for the last three months of 2001, a study
finds there was a significant increase in the number of fatal crashes in this
period compared with the same period in the year before the attacks. Gerd
Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, an
expert on how people respond to low-probability but high-consequence events
called “dread risks” calculated that, because of the extra traffic, 353 more
people died in traffic accidents during this period.
Thousands of Austrian citizens
took to the streets to protest increasing pollution and traffic, especially
truck transit, on the Alps highways. Following on the heels of Swiss voters’
rejection of a new tunnel through the Alps, this action signaled continuing
citizen revolt against excessive truck traffic. In Tirol, pollution levels are
30% above the limits set by a 1991 convention, and truck traffic increased by
2.2% this year. Still, the European Union continues to push Austria to loosen
its trucking regulations.
Read the latest news on the trucks.
For World Health Day on April 7, United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, called attention to the fact that every year 1.2 million people are killed in car crashes, 90% of which happen in developing countries. The victims are primarily pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and users of public transit. “Most of the accidents are not mentioned in the media,” Annan said, “yet they are always a personal tragedy.” The number of people injured by motorists each year is estimated at between 20 and 50 million.
Read the latest news on reducing pedestrian deaths.
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