Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Driver Privilege Checklist

This post comes from James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country.

RIP Jenna Morrison – Photo by Aaron Lynett / National Post
On Monday morning, a wife, mother and yoga instructor who was 5-months pregnant was run over by a truck and killed in Toronto in a completely avoidable incident. This senseless death has been on the minds of thousands of people in Toronto because it was so tragic and yet so avoidable.
As a result of this incident, fellow Toronto citizen and cyclist Kristin MH wrote “ The Driver Privilege Checklist ”, a list of privileges that drivers often take for granted. The list is essentially disadvantages that cyclists have, but presented as privileges of drivers instead of disadvantages of cyclists.
To briefly explain the concept of privilege checklists, “ The Male Privilege Checklist” is a good example: In that article the author quotes Peggy McIntosh who in 1990 observed that “ whites in the U.S. are taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” McIntosh created a list of privileges that white men enjoyin order to illustrate the invisible institutional racism that many people don’t even realize exists.
Using the same technique, Kristin MH highlights privileges that drivers enjoy in order to help illustrate what might otherwise be invisible. Kristin explains that the intention is not to scold drivers:
“Remember when you read this: If you have privilege in a situation, that doesn’t make you evil.It doesn’t mean that you have no problems and your life is perfect. Hell, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t un-privileged in another way! What it means is that you have a greater chance than a non-privileged person of being an asshole under this specific set of circumstances, and thus you have a greater responsibility to act in such a way as to not be an asshole. That’s really about it.”
Here is Kristin’s list:
The Driver Privilege Checklist
  1. If I am hurt or killed while driving, unless I am intoxicated or grossly negligent, I will not be blamed for my decision to drive.
  2. If I live in North America, my driving is subsidized by my local, regional, and federal government, who provide roads and infrastructure. This subsidy is far beyond that given to any other form of daily transportation.
  3. Learning to drive is a rite of passage, seen as a normal and necessary step towards adulthood, whereas other forms of transport are seen as childish or impractical.
  4. If I choose to transport my children in a car, I will not be called a bad parent or berated for doing so.
  5. If my child is injured or killed while in my car, I will not be blamed for their death unless I was intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent.
  6. If while driving I injure or kill another person, whether they are another driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, or a cyclist, unless I am intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent this will be seen nothing more than a regrettable accident.
  7. Large areas of the city, suburb, or rural area I live in are built and laid out with driving in mind to the exclusion of other forms of transportation, and may be totally inaccessible to non-drivers.
  8. While travelling I do not have to experience cold, heat, rain, or snow for more than a few moments unless I choose to.
  9. I can complain to friends, family, and aquaintances about minor accidents and other annoyances without being told that I should stop driving.
  10. It is easier for me than it is for non-drivers to buy many staple goods, such as groceries, as they are often sold in car-centric locations which are difficult to access by other means of transport. I also have the advantage of more easily buying in bulk.
  11. Unless I am very extravagant, the money I spend on purchasing and running my car is not seen as wasted, as a car is seen as a necessity. And the most obvious:
  12. While in transit, I am protected by a 2-tonne metal machine which is faster, stronger, and more durable than anything else I encounter on the road besides larger cars and trucks. If I am in a collision with a pedestrian or a cyclist, even if I am not at fault, I am much more likely to escape without serious injury or death.
  13. If I make a mistake while driving, am in an accident, or cause injury to myself or others, this will not be held against all drivers or considered proof that driving is inherently dangerous or irresponsible.
A memorial ridewill be held for Jenna Morrison on Monday November 14th at 7:30AM at Bloor and Spadina.
James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at or follow him on Twitter.

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