November 06, 2006

Ah, climate change and automobile dependency...
I haven't tried this out myself, but I know if I sit in my running car in a closed garage, I'm pretty sure I will be dead long before the fuel runs out. My car holds two. We would both be dead. Did I mention that I drive a hybrid?

My car could kill many more. Taking the conservative estimate of five carbon-monoxide deaths per car, I started estimating how many cars there are in one mile of traffic. I reset my odometer and checked the clock. In rush hour, it took me an hour and a half to travel 30 miles from Long Beach to Glendale. I was lucky.

Thirty miles in one hour and a half averages out to 20 miles an hour. Even when we were traveling at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour, there was barely the recommended two seconds of distance between cars, but let's use that figure. There are 3600 seconds in one hour, 1800 two-second intervals. Twenty miles divided by 1800 is just under 60 feet.

Taking the first car that comes to mind, a Toyota Camry, the 2005 model is 15 feet, 9 inches. Add that to the front and back of our two-second cushion and we have two cars occupying approximately every 90 feet of highway, or just over 58 cars in a one mile stretch. Lets round down, for you skeptics: 50 cars per mile, four lanes of traffic is 200 cars per mile. In 30 miles, that's 6000 cars.

I don't have any empirical evidence, and the freeway is not a closed garage, but every time I drive home well over 30,000 potential carbon-monoxide deaths are lurking in the atmosphere over one short stretch of Los Angeles freeway. I don't think they're patching up that hole in the ozone layer.
Thanks to Matt for doing the math.

If you haven't already, vote on Tuesday. Vote for pollution controls, emissions standards, alternative fuels, and energy independence. And then find at least one way to reduce your car use this week.

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