By Jordan W. Charness
Once upon a time, in a place not very far away, if you wanted to get from point A to point B, you saddled up your trusty horse or hitched it to a wagon. It took a long time to get where you were going so you didn’t go very far, but you still felt that you had completed quite a trip. Not everyone had a horse, but for those who did, the only way to add more horsepower was to add more horses.
Then, at the turn of the 20th century, the automobile was invented. In 1908, Henry Ford began mass production of cars that were more or less affordable for the masses.
The idea of an “auto-mobile” — literally, a vehicle that moved itself without benefit of any animals or people power — captured the world’s imagination and changed the world completely. For the next 75 years or so the automobile dominated transportation, requiring roads to be built, road signs and road laws to be enacted and drivers licence requirements, and of course a police force to make sure that everyone followed the rules.
Gasoline was relatively affordable and as vehicle technology got better and the price of vehicles went down, more and more people owned cars and used them on a daily basis. Mankind’s love affair with cars was complete.
Fast-forward to today’s evolving world and it appears that governments at all levels have taken the position that they must declare war on the automobile. They’ve enacted all types of laws to make it more difficult to own and drive vehicles. Many municipalities have added special gas taxes to each litre of gasoline that, supposedly, goes to pay for road repairs, and more recently, funding for public transportation.
While the price of cars is still relatively affordable, the cost of insuring them and registering them has gone through the roof. Once again these are all government decisions particularly in those provinces where the government has taken over the insurance for bodily injuries and insures damages in the so-called no-fault insurance regimes.
Motorcyclists are particularly hard hit, having to pay extremely high registration fees for the pitifully few months that it’s warm enough to actually ride a bike in Canada. Helmet laws exist to protect your head and the health care system. Licensing laws have become more stringent and driver’s education is pretty much mandatory almost everywhere in Canada.
At the same time, our infrastructure is deteriorating, and roads, bridges and overpasses that were built 50 years ago are finally reaching the end of their service lives with no money in sight for building new ones.
Although many are still smitten with their automobiles, the legislative war on the car is making it more and more difficult to drive in peace. Add to the mix global warming, pollution, oil shortages (real or imagined) and sky-high gasoline prices, and you have an environment that is a far cry from the optimistic and exciting time of a hundred years ago when the car changed the world.
So what can we car lovers do about it? Since all the legislative changes are actually created by politicians and their public policy, we as voters have an obligation and a legal right to make our views heard to our elected representatives and let them know what type of laws we would like to see on the books. If enough people suggest viable new laws that would benefit the public, and particularly vehicle owners, I may get some new laws to write about that would make us all smile instead of grinding our teeth.