Since their creation and rapid growth in popularity in the 20th century, cars have become a huge part of many lives. While they offer the clear advantage of convenience, they come with some negative effects, as well. Cars are a contributor to air pollution and global climate change, as well as a danger when not properly handled.
The advantage of automobiles becomes evident if you try imagining life without them. Cars allow us to cross the United States in a matter of days, whereas before automobiles, the trek would be a long, arduous journey full of danger and physically tough terrain. Aside from transporting us, automobiles also allow for the easy transport of goods and merchandise to travel from one part of the country to the other. This greatly increases what's available to most individuals, who would otherwise be limited to local supply.
The environmental impact of cars is becoming more evident. The car is a major contributor to air pollution, climate change and the depletion of natural resources like fossil fuels. The pollution caused by cars is evident in large cities with massive driving populations, like Los Angeles, New York City and Tokyo. The exhaust fumes produced by the automobiles can blanket the cities in smog.
Anywhere automobiles are used, there's an obvious increase in the risk of traffic accidents. Controlling such a large piece of machinery can be dangerous to the driver, passengers, other drivers on the road and pedestrians not using vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the United States saw 33,808 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2009. The number of passenger car fatalities declined for the seven years preceding 2009, which saw the lowest number since the NHTSA started collecting this data in 1975.
Hybrid cars were mainly designed to combat the pollution caused by traditional gasoline-powered cars. While solutions like electric hybrid engines lower emissions, the engines are more expensive, in turn making hybrids more expensive than gasoline-only cars. Some biofuels like ethanol require massive amounts of corn to produce, with some plants using about 70 per cent of the fuel's energy value simply to create it, according to NutraMed.com. These and other alternative technologies will slowly present more advantage as prices go down, and technology makes them more efficient.
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- University of Colorado at Boulder: The Impact of the Automobile; Josh Brancheau, et. al.
- Nutra Med: Cars, Trucks, Air Pollution and Health; March 2011
- Swiss Info: Electric Cars Reveal Positives and Negatives; Marc-André Miserez; March 2010
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts- Summary of Statistical Findings; August 2010