Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Drowning Fewer Thai People Through Changing Car Rego

I heard it again last night. The deep, throbbing growling growing closer until it was right beneath me. The metal on metal scrape of the garage door closing, followed by the unpleasant mechanical stench of unburnt hydrocarbons seeping between the floorboards. Then the deep rumbling I could feel through the frame of the bed cut off and was replaced by the intermittent tink-tink of cooling steel.

I made my way downstairs, passed my tank collection, and approached the Hummer. It was wet. Water dripped from the chassis and pooled beneath it. A sprig of green plant life was caught below the left headlight. It was long, soft strands of bright but rich green – a colour seen rarely in Australia. I plucked a small crustacean from the radiator grill and bit its head off. A fresh water species. There was debris along the bottom of the windshield and I picked out pieces of plastic and metal. The pieces had once been a hard drive and I knew which country it had been made in. I no longer had any doubt. Once again my Hummer had gone out in the night to drown Thai people.

I blame myself.

No, wait! No I don't! I blame the car! I didn't drown those Thai people! The car did it! I wasn't even there! Sure, I know the more one drives a Hummer or any other fossil fueled vehicle, the higher the chance it will slip out at night and go on a Thai drowning rampage, but how was I to know that the last trip I took would be the one to set it off? When I drove 200m down the road to buy an exercise magazine, it wasn't my intent to kill anyone. It was just bad luck that I happened to set it off. It is possible that my actions may have led to one or more people being downed, but only in the stochastic sense.

And how do we even know that my Hummer drowned anyone? It's impossible to say. It's a well known fact that Hummers and other vehicles only magically transport themselves to Thailand and drown people when no one is looking, so it's not as if there are any witnesses who could say my Hummer did down someone. Sure, I did find some matted human hair in one of the wheel wells, but that doesn't mean anything. My Hummer may have simply drowned a Thai wig.

And really, when you get down to it, it's the responsibility of the Thai people themselves to deal with the propensity that oil powered vehicles have to drown them. They need to adapt. When a three tonne truck suddenly magically appears behind them and attempts to hold them under water until they drown, they should simply jump out of the way. If they just take the simple precaution of avoiding all bodies of water they should be fine. While I understand that this may be difficult to do in Thailand, we manage it quite well in central Australia.

So I feel no guilt at all about driving a Hummer. Well, maybe just a tiny, weeny, itty, bitty, bit of guilt the size of a pimple on a bacteria's bottom. Sure, I could drive a car that is much less likely to drown Thai people, but I can't stop driving a Hummer! You see, I have a very small... kidney, and my driving a Hummer makes me feel better about the comparatively small size of my organ. My kidney organ that is, because that's the part which is small. And what about the stipend I get from the Manly Man Hummer Association in return for driving a Hummer while being such a manly man? If I stopped driving a vehicle that at random times drowned Thai people it would hurt me financially. This is something Thai people should keep in mind as they are being drowned. And yes, I know it's hard to think rationally with an oxygen starved brain while thrashing around underwater, but I don't think it's too much to ask them to consider the big picture.

So I don't feel guilty at all.

Except that I do, just a little bit.

So, how can I purge this small particle of guilt? I know! I'll encourage other people to change their ways to improve the situation while doing nothing myself! That always works! Now, let's see, what can I suggest? I know! Car rego!

In Australia, car registration is quite pricey and is mostly insurance. Apparently compensation and stitching people together after cars smack into each other isn't cheap. It's a charge that's the same for each vehicle type, no matter how many kilometres the vehicle is driven. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because one would think that the chance of smacking into something would be more or less proportional to the number of kilometres driven, rather than a fixed chance per time period whether one kilometre is driven or a million.

So I suggest that we change car registration so we pay by the kilometre rather than by time. This will have the advantage of turning car registration into a running cost rather than a fixed cost, which will slightly reduce the number of kilometres that people drive as the cost of each kilometre driven will be higher than before, even though the average cost of driving will be about the same. Fewer kilometres driven means less congestion, less pollution and lower CO2 emissions.

Paying per kilometre driven will also encourage the uptake of electric and fuel efficient vehicles. If people know they can keep their old petrol slurper and only pay registration for when they actually use it, they will be more likely to purchase an electric or other small, fuel efficient vehicle for around town use.

Changing over would be a hassle. Many cars would need to have their odometers checked because of the temptation to over report the number of kilometres it displays at the start of the new system. But after that it shouldn't be too difficult. People could just self report the number of kilometres they have driven each year, or part year. Sure, people might lie about how many kilometres they have driven to try to save money, but if the vehicle is sold or wrecked then the odometer would be checked and it would catch up with them then. “But,” you say, “What if I drove many kilometres and then set the car on fire, destroying all evidence of how far I drove?” Then I would say, “Congratulations, you have gotten away with committing a crime, something that has long been an important part of our culture here in Australia. I hope you feel proud of yourself.”

I realise that paying vehicle registration by the kilometre may go into the too hard basket. For one thing, depending on how it's done, it could have a big effect on the trucking industry. And I also realise that some people might prefer to put off any change until they can install GPS monitors in all vehicles and use a congestion based pricing system. But, and this is the important point, I have put the suggestion out there and my guilt is now assuaged.

Time to take the Hummer for a spin!

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