Monday, 5 November 2007

Traffic Tragedy is Fall-Out from Urban Sprawl

So moving to the suburbs is the best thing for the kids, eh?

Eighteen year old Brandon Pardi and a 17 year old friend spent the weekend in jail. Last Wednesday, the afternoon of Halloween, the two of them—each driving separate vehicles—were involved in a collision which sent their cars ricocheting onto a nearby lawn where three year old Bianca Leduc was helping her babysitter put up Halloween decorations. The moppet was killed and the two young men have been charged with criminal negligence and dangerous driving. Pardi has a bail hearing Tuesday, and the other boy, whose name is protected because he is a minor—also has a hearing in juvenile court Tuesday.

As you might imagine, the accident has been lamented loudly. Officials on Ile Perrot, the suburban community (Population: 10,221 in 2006) west of Montreal where it occurred, are decrying the lack of police presence. Speeding is a huge problem, but there aren't enough police to crack down. The area’s population has increased 25 per cent in the last 10 years, but the number of officers patrolling hasn’t gone up, they say.

A sad situation. But there is another aspect that nobody has mentioned to my knowledge: the dependence of people in Ile Perrot on automobiles which sets the stage for traffic tragedy. You can to take a commuter train to Montreal (the same line that goes to Beaconsfield) but it does not run frequently, and there is no bus service on Ile Perrot itself. Neither young Pardi and his friend had been driving very long—Pardi had only a learner’s permit, in fact--yet they needed cars to do just about anything in their spread-out neighborhood. When we build communities like this one we should not be surprised when tragedies happen.


Martin Langeland said...

J B Priestly makes the point in "The Magicians" that the automobile is a tool of suicide by mischance. Before the automobile, an angry person might leap aboard a horse and go galumphing into the night. Before long both would tire and cooler thoughts would intervene. Tragedy is averted. But today a person in that situation leaps into an enormously powerful car and roars tirelessly down the road. A tiny mistake kills himself, or someone else.
The same observation, of course, applies to guns. If people resorted to nothing worse than knives for the final argumento in extremis The wounds accruing might be fatal far less often.
That we prefer to live in a world that is so dangerous is not a high recommendation for the species.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Exactly. One of the big arguments for gun control is that by making guns less available, you cut down on the damage done in fits of passion or despair.

The dangerousness of the world does make you wonder if we're setting ourselves up for a Darwinian end. There are those who would argue that such a fate would serve us right.