Sunday, March 21, 2010


...After a chapter summing up conditions that make us the “United States of Automobiles,” home to more vehicles than licensed drivers, Carjacked examines our automotive illusions. Chapter Two, “Dream Car,” looks at movies and marketing, branding and beliefs, and how they shape an automobile mythology that largely obscures the costs and problems that come with basing transportation so heavily on cars. The book then goes on to take an in-depth look at the realities of car culture:
• how aggressively cars are marketed and sold, with $18 billion per year spent by automakers on ads mostly for TV, “ making it impossible to channel surf without landing on an ad for a car, SUV, or truck.”
• manipulation of consumers in the process of the car purchase itself: “Dealer tactics that are not simply unethical but baldly illegal are unfortunately not rare.”
• how the dollar price we pay is actually much more than we realize: by 2003, car transport “swallowed one in five dollars spent” by American households.
• how cars contribute to social and economic inequality: “The automobile has largely cemented and accentuated class and race divisions in America.”
• the factors that encourage us to drive more and more: at just 16 percent of car trips, “commuting isn’t the main culprit. …. The numbers of other types of trips have exploded.”
• how cars sicken us and our environment: cancer risks increase “within 150 to 500 yards of major roads, although some studies find these cancer corridors can be as wide as a mile on either side.”
• how – and how much – automobiles kill and maim: “The advent of SUVs has made America less safe. But even if all of our SUVs magically disappeared, cars would still be the deadliest factor in most of our environments.”... Kate Alvord on FireDogLake