Twenty years ago, smoking was permitted in most restaurants and public buildings. Nowadays, smokers have accepted that they have no right to force nonsmokers to put up with secondhand smoke.
In a similar way, society needs to make the transition to a mindset in which driving a single-occupancy, non-electric passenger car is viewed as selfish, anti-social behavior.
Driving causes traffic congestion and noise. It contributes to global warming. It worsens the trade deficit. It makes America dependent on Middle Eastern oil kingdoms that have been breeding grounds for terrorists. It corrupts our foreign policy. And it pollutes the air, harming people’s health. It leads to fracking, which pollutes the water.
Recent medical studies show that people living within several hundred meters of major freeways, like I-405 and I-90, have reduced lung function and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (See for example, Auto Pollution’s Carbon Particulates Harm Kids’ Lung Function.)
So, if you drive a car, you are harming people’s health.
A study by California researchers published last month suggested a link between autism in children and the exposure of pregnant women to traffic-related air pollution. Columbia University researchers, in a study done in New York, found that prenatal exposure to air pollutants could result in children with anxiety, depression and attention-span problems. Some of the same researchers found in an earlier study that children in Chongqing, China, who had prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollutants from a coal-fired plant were born with smaller head circumferences, showed slower growth and performed less well on cognitive development tests at age 2. The shutdown of the plant resulted in children born with fewer difficulties.
See also Air Pollution’s Role in Heart Disease and 2 Million Deaths Yearly Worldwide Linked with Air Pollution, which says, “The study estimated that 2.1 million deaths each year are linked with fine particulate matter, tiny particles that can get deep into the lungs and cause health problems.”
We need to take drastic steps to encourage the use of public transportation, bicycles, carpooling and telecommuting and to discourage our harmful dependence on passenger cars.
According to Time, Seattle has the 8th worst traffic among US cities.
[Added: 2015/04-27: See also Yikes! Urban air pollution shrinks your brain, impairs thought function, and causes strokes, new study reveals.]