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October 05, 2015


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Once again, pure partisan claptrap.

It's hard to imagine anyone who would oppose all regulations, or who would deny that any regulation saves lives.

And, the truth is: no one does.

Steve, why use this space to argue that Republicans or libertarians or whatever group you wish to attack today want to do away with all regulations so that people will die needlessly? I'm not speaking as a partisan anything, but as one seeking refuge from the endless hyperbole and poorly reasoned analysis that today substitutes for "debate" ...

Ironically, Ralph Nader recently called for an alliance with Rand Paul. I mention Ralph only for this reason: As anyone who remembers "Unsafe at Any Speed," it wasn't the evil "libertarians," Steve, it was the auto industry.

Have you studied the political affiliations of the leaders of that industry? Please do and let us know how many are "libertarians"?

Or, do you believe that the auto industry has no influence on Democrats in Congress?

IMHO, you are just waiving around slogans that you know will appeal to low information readers who will always have a knee jerk reaction to labels and who are inclined to think of every issue in either or terms: demonizing their political "foes" and ignoring the harm done by their "allies."


Saying "surely" isn't a convincing argument.


Don't call me Shirley!

confused by your post

I am confused by attacks on people who advocate for less government regulation through pointing to a single example of a good regulation while ignoring thousands of bad ones.

On a less serious note the link below is a good illustration of how vehicle safety regulation happens in the US.

Orin Kerr

This isn't my area, and I don't have a view of the question myself. But I have heard libertarians point to graphs like the one below that shows a rapid decline in fatalities per mile driven long before 1969 -- and a curve that doesn't change when the regulations start, especially if you don't cherry-pick the 1957-1969 window and instead look back to the 1920s.

Again, not my area, and I don't have a view of the question myself. But I think that's the libertarian argument based on the trends in the numbers.

Steve L.

That is a fair observation, Orin. Although there were almost no high speed highways before 1950, so the earlier numbers are not really comparable.

In terms of deaths per 100,000 population, there was almost no change from 1953 until 1970 (which was also the period of greatly increased automobile ownership), at which point the decline in fatalities became steep and constant.

All open to interpretation, of course. But still interesting.

Orin Kerr


Doesn't the highway point cut the other way? According to the Department of Transportation, the fatalities per mile are lower on interstate highways than on other roads. "The Interstate System is the safest road system in the country, with a fatality rate of 0.8—compared with 1.46 for all roads in 2004."

As I said, not my area, etc.


Thankfully, U.S. government regulation has prevented the introduction of safety-improving, automatic dimming headlights, and thus only those under-regulated Europeans have access to them:

Steve L.

My apologies to those whose comments were trapped in the spam filter, which evidently occurred after I'd signed off for the evening.

Everything has now been released.

Steve L.

Another good question, Orin. Numbers can tell many stories, and people (including me, of course) tend to accept the stories most congenial to one's own priors. If I have done that, then I need to change my mind -- as Keynes would say.

But I am not yet sure. The DOT figures on fatality per mile are not convincing, as people travel many more miles at higher speeds on interstates, and perhaps with fewer people in each car (though I am unsure of the latter).

For a more accurate comparison, we really need to know fatalities per hour of driving or per user. We do not have those figures. My hunch (and I admit it is influenced by my opinion) is that safety rates for the interstate would fall dramatically if reported per 100,000 users or per 100,000 hours, rather than per 100,000 miles.

Still, we have to respect the data. If I am wrong, I am wrong.

Jeff Lipshaw

In the one tort case of my career, I argued a contribution issue to the Michigan Supreme Court in a personal injury case (wrongful death defendant vs. dram shop defendant). The driver left the bar, got in the car, didn't use a seat belt, drove a half mile, crossed the center line, hit somebody head on, bounced around the inside of the car, died, was found to have blood alcohol of something like .22, and sued (by way of his estate) the auto manufacturer for not having a crashworthy vehicle. (O'Dowd v. General Motors Corp., 419 Mich. 597, 358 N.W.2d 553 (1984)).

I recall having a conversation about mandatory seat belt laws with the ATLA/MTLA prominent Democrat plaintiffs' lawyer, who told me how laws requiring the use of seat belts (which would likely have saved his client's life) were an unconstitutional imposition on one's privacy within the car. My impression was then and now that preserving one's rice bowl transcended all politics.


An admittedly isolated personal story and a quote from one lawyer v. stats and reasoned analysis.

Geez. I would go with the faculty lounge attitude (the former means of reasoning). Much more reliable.

On a less serious note, factor in the major push to reduce drunk driving, which began in the 1970s (MADD was founded in 1980). What group will you demonize as being generally opposed to civilian campaigns to enact criminal laws and enforcement of those criminal laws, Steve? Would that be the evil Republicans, or the foul libertarians?

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