Drivers responsible for pollution

If you believe in the statement, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” then it follows suit that, “cars don’t pollute, people pollute.”

Yes, this is a column about putting the pollution onus on the right people: you and me.

Long before the commotion over global warming and climate change, the highly populated state of California had tough emissions laws to help reduce pollution from vehicles.

As our population grows and global warming moves up in priority, the pressure is mounting.

On the surface, the California government looks like a hero for wanting strict standards, the politicians look good and we all think that we’re doing something about the pollution problem. But behind all the grandstanding and backslapping, are we really?

Many congested European cities are trying to address pollution by mandating stricter emissions standards on cars and trucks, implementing a sticker system to show which vehicles conform to the standards and penalizing those that do not by charging fees for entering the city core. Some cities won’t allow unnecessary vehicles to drive downtown when it’s busy. Is this where we’re heading?

Without depending on lawmakers and politicians, it’s important that we address pollution issues on a personal level and really take a look at what we, as individuals, are doing to the environment. I think it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and take for granted what we have and forget or not really consider the consequences of our wasteful lifestyles.

New laws governing emissions affect new cars, not the ones already on the road creating the pollution: the one in your driveway now. Blame vehicles all you like, but the pollution problem was created by us and the way we live our lives. By taking stock of how we live and pollute, we can make adjustments to make all the difference in the world.

There is nothing wrong with governments fighting for stricter emissions laws. It’s needed and I applaud the effort, especially since, over time, vehicles pollute less and don’t sacrifice performance. As an auto enthusiast, I think this is a win-win situation.

However, it would be nice if we did not have to be subject to government intervention and did not have to be punished with fees or bribed with tax incentives and things such as carpool-lane privileges for driving gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. It would be great if we all just cared enough to make simple changes on our own since, although government has the authority to make legislative change, the power to make personal change is in the hands of its citizens.

Unfortunately, major change isn’t all that easy. Los Angeles, my hometown, does not have a particularly good or useful public transportation system. Why would we when we can all seemingly drive without consequence? We have a subway, but it does not take us to all areas of the city, and, unlike in Europe, it’s associated with an undesirable criminal element. Because of this perception alone, I’ve never taken it. We have buses, but they are slow because of our traffic congestion. That means there are millions upon millions of us driving our cars on a daily basis. If government is truly serious about reducing pollution and not just making laws, it must get to work on this transportation issue.

In the meantime, we need to take a look at our personal use before government begins to try to regulate it, such is case with the congested European cities. If we can’t police ourselves, someone else will. Do you want to be told where you can drive or how much gasoline you can use? Of course not. And to prevent that from happening we need to take stock of what we’re doing.

So, carpool more often and drive vehicles that make sense for your lifestyle. Reduce wasteful use because it’s that use that creates pollution. Get on your bike. And if you don’t have bike lanes, lobby for them.

In cities where a good transportation infrastructure exists, we should be taking the trains and subways more often. And we should all consider combining trips and think about our vehicle-purchase decisions and how we intend to drive that car or truck. You might look and feel really cool in that big 4×4 trapped in rush-hour traffic, but is that a wise and responsible choice? Do you really need to be stuck in traffic with it?

It seems hypocritical to complain about environmental issues, press government into taking action on car companies and then take no responsibility for our personal use.

So many of you are already making a huge impact for the better and I commend that. I am going to work harder in my own life to make a personal difference.

We need to do more than raise awareness and make new laws. We need to take action.

Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of her own book entitled the Garage Girl’s Guide, the host of Spike TV’s “Power Block,” the former host of TLC’s “Overhaulin'” and a writer with Wheelbase Communications. You can email her by logging on to

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