Editor’s Notebook: Driving Wrong Way on Campus

Editor’s Notebook: Driving Wrong Way on Campus

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Gov. Nathan Deal waited until the deadline Tuesday, May 3, to decide to veto legislation that would have forced Georgia universities to allow people to carry firearms.

I have one son about to graduate from the University of Georgia and another son who’ll be a college freshman out of state next year. So Deal’s decision should matter to me.

But after the horrible car crash Wednesday night, April 27, that killed four female UGA students (none Jewish) and left a fifth in critical condition, the whole issue just makes me angry.

As with the religious liberty fight, we’re sure to repeat this battle in 2017, but all the lobbying, all the marches and vigils, all the tweets and Facebook posts and blogs and columns are incalculably out of proportion with campus carry’s impact.

The law likely would lead to some deaths through accidents and the escalation of arguments.

Michael Jacobs
Michael Jacobs

It likely would save lives and prevent some crimes. Don’t expect to see many good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns in mass shootings, but some attacks might never happen because of a gunman’s fear of running into armed victims.

Similarly, it’s hard to imagine a lot of women pulling guns on potential rapists, but the mere possibility would make some sexual predators stay away.

Would campus carry be a net saver or taker of lives? Who knows? But while each life gained or lost would be huge to the affected loved ones, the net effect for society would be minimal — perhaps fewer in an average year than what UGA lost on one night on a two-lane highway south of Athens.

That’s why I’m angry. While we’re playing political games on guns, we’re not doing anything about the biggest threat to college students and the rest of society: the four-wheeled death machine outside.

Car crashes kill as many people as guns, but while most gun deaths are suicides or domestic violence — cases in which the underlying problem often would lead to a death even if guns didn’t exist — road deaths are inherent to our addiction to the convenience and freedom of motor vehicles.

As long as fallible, distractible, tired humans get behind the wheel, we will make mistakes and wreck, and people will die.

We’ve made great progress in highway safety. About 43,000 people a year died on the roads a decade ago; now it’s fewer than 33,000. But we’ve gone about as far as we can go with humans behind the wheel.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The various experiments with self-driving cars, including self-parking and autonomous braking vehicles on the market, have proved that we humans are the weak link in the automobile. We’re the danger. And we’re on the cusp of solving the problem.

Imagine if we spent the money wasted on the campus carry debate to improve and reduce the cost of autonomous driving systems. Imagine if, instead of a moonshot program to cure cancer (a noble goal but one that can’t be achieved through the application of money or political pressure), the government decided to automate our roadways.

Here’s a problem we’re on the way to fixing, and with a few government carrots and sticks, more than 30,000 families a year could be saved the pain being suffered by the families of those four young women at UGA. But our government-industrial complex is more interested in issues, arguments and fundraising than solutions and lifesaving.

So I’m angry. And more than a little sad.

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