Data Project Report: Self-Witnessing of Driving

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Automobiles are used everyday to get from one destination to another. The use of a car is the most popular method of transportation certainly because of the convenience to leave at anytime (unlike waiting for the bus to arrive), the privacy and the comfortable surrounding of the interior of your own car, and the ability to control how to get from one place to another (for example, how fast, how slow, and which short cuts to take). On the other hand, despite the convenience and comfort, is the automobile an immoral instrument that can be used to threaten, injure, and even kill a person? In fact, does the automobile portray a deeper, darker, and more distinct characteristics of immorality? In deed, through the eyes of Alvin Spivak, the automobile is neither moral nor ethical.

Alvin Spivak, author of The Immoral Machine defines immorality as "a synonym for wrong, impropriety, unethical behavior, or any action condemned by society" (Spivak, pg. 9). Because streets and roads are of public property, Spivak strongly believes that the streets should be used and meant for the locomotion of all individuals and not just one group of individuals.

Therefore, streets and roads should be used equally among pedestrians and drivers. But somewhere down the line, people have forgotten that pedestrians have the right-of-way. For example, if a pedestrian wanted to cross a busy street in a crosswalk without a traffic light, many drivers would overlook the pedestrian and keep driving ahead instead of stopping or slowing down for the individual who is supposed to have the right-of-way. "The right of anyone, regardless of age or physical condition, to cross the streets freely and safely at anytime and without worry or care is as important as any other freedom" (Spivak, pg. 10).

In other words, streets are not regarded as public if pedestrians must fear for their lives. Spivak also feels that the natural rights such as walking should always be placed in higher importance over the privileges such as driving. This is because whenever someone uses something other than driving in order to get from one place to another (for example, their feet and legs), they must accept moral responsibility for their method of transportation and for those around them.

Thus, the automobile is a machine that causes hazard to others and also restricts movement in public places in order to avoid the traffic. Furthermore, Spivak feels that in an accident, "Who's the victim of anther's carelessness is also at fault because of the decision to drive. Therefore, drivers must accept all risks that come with driving.

Although I personally feel that Spivak's view of the automobile being immoral is harsh in some areas, he does have some excellent points that has made me take a look at my own driving personality. First, I believe that in the right hands, a car can be used wisely and appropriately. Driving is a decision for many people, for some of these people it is a difficult decision to make.

While for others, driving is just a matter of time and age, and its something that young individuals for example look forward to. But for whatever their reason is that made them decide upon driving, if each driver accepts sole responsibility for themselves and others around them, driving would be a positive method of transportation. But then again, how many individuals in our society really do feel this sense of responsibility.

Thus, it is those who are the irresponsible drivers that increase the risk of other drivers. Therefore, Spivak's belief of all drivers (including the victims of careless drivers) being at fault of all accidents is cold and heartless to say. Although Spivak feels that all drivers are at fault because they accepted the risks of driving, I believe the innocent drivers who are alert, responsible, and altruistic should not be blamed for some other driver's reckless actions.

Spivak, Alvin. The Immoral Machine pages 9-32. San Jose, (California: Milieu Information Service. 1972. call number: HE 5623 S59

For this lab report I wanted to do something completely different in a sense where I was really interested on someone else's ideas, beliefs, and understanding about traffic. So, this time I went to Hamilton and looked up social psychology and traffic psychology in the CARL. After deciding upon my sources, I went up to the second floor and found a variety of books on traffic, automobiles, and drivers. After the search, I realized that The Immoral Machine appealed to me the most.

Spivak has make me look at my own personal flaws in my driving habits. I've concluded that as a driver I do feel that I have the upperhand over pedestrians, bikers, and moped drivers. After reading through Spivak's book, I've come to realize that this view I have is all wrong. I should learn to respect and share the road with others besides just drivers. I must also keep in mind that the roads are indeed public, and not mine...

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