Living in over-populated Southern California as I do, one encounters seventh layer of hell traffic on a daily basis. Many a time I've spent three hours in first gear and traveled less than 10 miles. At three in the morning. On a Sunday. Many of these types of stop-and-go back-ups are caused by what the British call 'lane discipline', or rather, a distinct lack of it.
You've seen the culprits, driving along in the passing lane at 15-20 MPH less than the flow of traffic around them, mouth agape, blissfully unaware of the throngs of infuriated drivers tailgating them, passing them, cutting them off, offering them colorful hand gestures. These people eat at the Olive Garden and chew with their mouths open, watch Dancing with the Stars, listen to Michael Buble and say 'suposably' and 'irregardless'. I fucking hate them with a passion normally reserved by those involved with religious sectarianism - but I digress.
With air pollution such a serious concern, particularly in California, the lack of more stringent enforcement of proper lane usage strikes me as serious short-sightedness on the part of both state and federal government. C.A.R.B., or the California Air Resources Board, is so concerned about tailpipe emissions, yet simultaneously so bureaucratically ineffectual that they've even considered banning black cars, a patently insane idea that would have had negligible impact on decreasing pollutant levels, the only public expense our last smidgen of respect for government and having to live in a comically feckless dystopia. Wait a minute...
According to a 2007 study conducted by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, in 2000 there were approximately 4,000 premature deaths caused by congestion-related pollution, in addition to $60,000,000,000 in lost productivity and wasted fuel as a direct result of said congestion. These numbers are shocking enough without the knowledge that the study was confined to only 83 urban centers spread across the country, representing a fraction of total US population. Bear in mind as well that these statistics are over a decade old at this point.
Rather than setting arbitrary, expensive and, ultimately, not sufficiently ambitious future benchmarks for fuel economy and emissions, why not simply invest relatively minimally to re-work America's driver education system? Already laughably inadequate compared with much of the developed world, a substantially redesigned driver ed curriculum would not only offer immediate, quantifiable and substantial decreases in traffic congestion, but would also lower driving injuries and deaths with similar effectiveness. Additionally, there are serious economic improvements to be had through re-claimed productivity, surely something that we can all agree on as the 2008 global financial crisis drags on seemingly without end.
This is not the rant of a crazed gearhead, hoping to fly along at extralegal speeds, unencumbered by slower moving traffic - this is a sincere and heartfelt plea for sane and rational legislation aimed at providing safer, more efficient roads, cleaner air, and restored faith in government to do anything worthwhile in a cost-effective and pragmatic way.
I've started a petition here, please sign it, then write your congressional representative and let them know you support stricter lane discipline enforcement and better driver education as a means to better health and an improved economy.