We could safely assume that everyone in the world desires cleaner air and less pollution. While the use of fossil fuels has huge benefits (saving and improving billions of lives) which many believe outweigh the negative effects of its pollutant byproducts, nobody on any side of the debate would argue that needlessly producing pollution in the presence of a clear alternative is desirable.

Modern politicians and activists throughout the world have passed many laws – and proposed many more – limiting how much pollution various industries could produce, including vehicle emissions. Within a few more years, a majority of Congress may try to ban all standard vehicles and limit air travel, as well as limiting other un-environmental practices. Even if traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles were banned, the process would take around 10 years to completely phase into practice. What if there were a way to decrease vehicle pollution by starting in your own town and by starting today?

While there has never been a study (that we know of) on the exact impact of traffic laws on vehicle emissions, few people would dispute that decreasing the amount of time during which engines are combusting gasoline would result in a proportional decrease in emissions, and therefore, pollution.

vehicle emissions

Each year, police throughout the US conduct at least twenty million traffic stops. The average stop lasts around 10 minutes, during which the police vehicle and the civilian’s vehicle idle their engines. Assuming that the average cop only conducts 100 stops per year, 100 million stops multiplied by 20 minutes of idling vehicles equals 2 billion minutes (over 33 million hours) of idling vehicles – for absolutely no reason. Eliminating traffic stops could therefore decrease vehicle emissions by humongous amounts, and it would do so without infringing on anyone’s rights. In fact, abolishing the antiquated traffic stop would expand our freedom and decrease authoritarianism.

Time is money

In addition to the humongous and unnecessary amount of pollution caused by cops pulling people over to fulfill their quotas, traffic stops cause motorists to lose a few hundred million – if not billions – of minutes each year. They could be using this time productively, but they are forced by armed government officials to spend their time polluting their town’s air. This is referred to as ‘opportunity cost’ by economists, and it’s a very serious issue. In addition to the billions of dollars that motorists lose due to tickets and subsequent increases in their insurance rates, they lose billions of dollars in opportunity cost – that young mother who committed the terrible crime of driving 45 on a highway with a speed limit of 35 lost precious time she could have spent with her husband and baby or working overtime to pay for her mortgage.

The two alternatives to traffic stops:

1) If I had my druthers, I would remove all ‘crimes’ from the books other than those which harm a person or their property. Potentially endangering someone by driving 35 on a highway with a terribly low speed limit or driving without a seatbelt hardly endangers others on the road, and should not be a crime. A man holding such a driver hostage with a gun (AKA a cop) is the true criminal, if you ask me. The best alternative to solving the multitude of humongous issues caused by traffic stops is simple: Abolish all traffic stops. If a person uses his car to murder someone, charge him with murder. If they drive drunk and crash into a house, charge them with DUI with property damage. If they drive without a seatbelt, leave them the hell alone and mind your own business.

2) If all of the thousands of traffic laws must be kept on the books, they can all be enforced – much more efficiently than the current enforcement rate for traffic violations which is around 0.00000003% – by utilizing technology which already exists in order to fine anyone who ever violates any traffic law. Many cities in the US already use cameras to automatically punish people who speed, run red lights, or commit other crimes. The tickets are sent to their homes via mail, and they have the same opportunity to dispute the ticket that they’ve always had. No wasted time on a traffic stop, no fear, stress, or resentment from being pulled over. No risk of being killed – to the cop or the driver – and no opportunity cost. And no pollution. And enforcement of traffic violations skyrockets to the neighborhood of 90%. Using speed limiters which already exist in many vehicles could literally prevent anyone from ever speeding again in the US. Furthermore, law enforcement could be notified each time a person bumps up against their speed limiter (inhibitor). And again, a fine could easily be sent to their house by mail using an automated system. The traffic violations that are not caught by traffic cameras, red light cameras, speed cameras, or the inhibitors built into cars could be caught by police vehicles’ drive-cams. What if instead of chasing down and pulling someone over, cops simply hit a button on their steering wheel to record/photograph the driver’s plate? Using their license plate, the police could easily send a ticket to their home by mail. Why endanger the lives of cops, drivers, passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians by needlessly chasing them down and pulling them over? Over the past few decades, police have killed thousands of innocent bystanders in car chases – which we now know to be roughly 100% unnecessary! How would you feel if a cop ran over and killed your child because he was chasing down a driver for committing the crime of not wearing a seatbelt?

Traffic signals

Similar to the needless pollution caused by traffic stops, vehicles idling for a minute at a time while waiting at red lights despite there being zero traffic on the roads at 3 in the morning is a scenario that likely occurs millions of times per year throughout the US. Even if red lights were considered yield signs after a certain time at night (or if no cross traffic exists), we could likely save significant amounts of emissions from polluting our environment. Stop signs could also be converted to yield signs, at least at night. Remember, it is still a crime to drive recklessly, and causing injury to another person or property would still be prosecuted by the authorities, just as they are currently.

Speed limits

Throughout the US, speed limits are set by states and localities to purposely be much slower than the speed of traffic. This allows police to pull people over whenever they desire. When was the last time you saw the flow of traffic obeying the speed limit? Of course, the flow of all drivers is usually faster than the posted speed limit. Now that millions of Americans have perpetual fuel efficiency monitoring in their vehicles, we can see that cruising at a moderately faster speed than the posted speed limit is often much more fuel efficient – which translates to less emissions. Without the frequent braking due to speed limit signs and police sitting on the side of the road with radar guns making people nervously slow down, we might be able to save a few million more pounds of emissions. According to an MIT study, vehicle emissions kill 53,000 people annually in the US via pollution.

If the environmental community – especially the global warming activists – wish to be taken seriously by policymakers, they ought to consider the enormous impact of needless fuel use and emissions by cars. While legislators might try to begin phasing out gasoline and diesel vehicles over the next decade, roughly half of the people in the US believe that we only have 10 years left to live on this earth due to catastrophic global warming caused by fossil fuel use. If we could save the lives of police officers, drivers, improve overall efficiency everywhere, stop pollution, and bring communities together, why wouldn’t we consider it?