One of today’s news items (and, oh, how rich today’s news items were) reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.
David Brown, a really sharp science reporter at the WashPost, wrote a short piece on the World Health Organization’s new report on worldwide traffic-related deaths, called Youth and Road Safety.
Worldwide, about 1.2 million people each year are killed each year in car/bus/bike/motorcycle crashes (the guys over at 1lesscar make this point pretty nicely), and about a third of those people are under 25 (which, statistically, isn’t exactly a big surprise.) The big surprise is that crash injuries are the leading cause of death, worldwide, among 10 to 24 year olds. Yup: more than AIDS. More than TB. And the report doesn’t even go into people who are merely injured…
I’ve been thinking about the subject a little more than usual lately, partly because my friend Andrew was nearly killed by a truck, and also because I’ve heard about few other accidents close to home lately. Livable Streets sent me an email about a 22-year old in Boston who was hit and killed after a taxi hit him on Huntington St. And another Bay Area biker who I’ve seen around was hit by a car and got away with only cuts and scrapes a few days later.
So you could say my radar is on.
Anyway, what I really liked about the report was what Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement: “Road traffic crashes are not ‘accidents.’ We need to challenge the notion that they are unavoidable.”
I’ve been saying this for a while: someone swindled us, or maybe we fooled ourselves, and somehow we’ve become complicit in some freakishly deceptive wordplay. We replaced the word “crash” with the word “accident,” as if we just stubbed our toe or spilled a glass of milk or sent an embarrassing email to our boss, when actually, we drove a few thousand pounds of metal into someone else at high speed, with far more force than a fleshy human body can tolerate.
So you tell me: were we swindled? Or do we just love our cars so much that we’ve willfully turned a blind-eye toward their effects?