About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Road Kill -1.2 million - the facts of vehicular slaughter and maiming

Why are people willing to spend trillions of dollars and years of "waiting" at airports and court houses waiting to pass through "weapon" inspections, when it is thousands of times more likely that any one of us will be killed or maimed by a car than by a terrorist? Each year since 9/11/01, more pedestrians have been killed in cross-walks than in the entire death toll in the buildings attacked by terrorists.

There are Islamic Arabs all over the world. Many of them drive cars and trucks. As drivers, they are thousands of times more likely to kill and maim, than as "jihadists" or bombers. Put another way, America IS under attack, but not from Arabs. The world is under assault from manufacturers. From drivers.

Let's look at the actual numbers:

UNITED STATES - TRAFFIC DEATHS. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 42,642 Americans DIED in traffic accidents in 2006. (NHTSA was de-funded by the Bush Administration and placed in the hands of appointees with no expertise, so the numbers must be considered extremely "conservative" and unreliable on the low side.)

GLOBAL - TRAFFIC DEATHS. Traffic deaths are the fastest-rising cause of death in the world, in every nation, and exceed 1 million per year for the last 5 years. By comparison, last year's combat deaths have been estimated at 100,000. Roadways pose a greater danger to human beings than war.

VEHICLES AND RAILROAD CROSSINGS. In America, a train collides with a vehicle every two hours. It is never pretty. In 1996, there were 415 deaths and 1554 serious injuries. The average victims were sober, driving within 25 miles of their homes. Since 2004, there has been almost no "infrastructure" improvement, and the crossings are worse than ever, with more traffic exposures.

VEHICLE MILES. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the last three years, vehicular travel has increased 170% in the last three decades in America. (The EPA was de-funded by the Bush Administration and placed in the hands of appointees with no expertise, therefore the figures should be regarded as extremely conservative.) Mobility is clearly linked to prosperity, productivity, and even freedom. However, this is not true of the vehicle mile increase in the last 6 years, during which America has suffered decreased prosperity, less vacation time, reduced productivity, and less freedom.

FATALITIES PER MILE. Curiously, in spite of dramatic improvements in vehicle safety engineering--anti-lock brakes, air bags, impact engineering, inclined roadbeds--casualties per mile traveled have not significantly fallen. (Note, fatalities are slightly decreased, but injuries have actually increased.) It appears that cell phone usage and other driver distractions have increased. In addition, the horsepower has dramatically increased. Twenty years ago the average consumer vehicle had 119 "under the hood". Now, almost doubled, to 210 horsepower. The Porsche Cayenne SUV has 520 horsepower. The 2008 Toyota Camry with 268 horsepower does zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, equivalent to the acceleration of a racing Corvette of a generation ago. Thus, we are STILL killing and maiming people at the same pandemic rate in spite of the additional and extraordinary "safety" features.

THE MYTH OF PROSPERITY AND PRODUCTIVITY. The transportation-industrial complex dominates the lion's share of advertising, and is an important contributor to the diversification and prosperity of the world. This complex, consisting of vehicle manufacturers, roadway builders, fuels, and insurance, is also a major lobbying power. Government regulators are run by appointees of the Executive branch which has de-funded and marginalized scientific expertise across the board. Just as significantly, the complex is responsible for suppressing the facts, and promulgating distortions--for example the myth that lax regulation of transportation contributes to prosperity.

It is of course true that mobility and transport are critical to prosperity. However, it is criminal to make decisions based on only partial truths. The fact is, Medical Treatment costs have sky-rocketed. Why? More people need more care, because THEY ARE INJURED. 2.6 million Americans were injured in traffic crashes in 2006. JUST IN ONE YEAR. Many of them suffered spinal injuries which leave them in chronic pain for decades.

I was rear-ended three times in a three-year period, and I have never recovered. I live in constant pain. And my "productivity" rapidly declined, although I continue to work and appear presentable. My pain is not in any statistics. The fact that I am producing 1/10th what I used to before the accidents is not going to influence the policy of studied indifference to 2.6 million injuries per year. And the traffic deaths-- 1.2 million in the world, annually.

The suggestion that the "convenience" of taking a car to pick up groceries should include a statistically significant risk of death and maiming is insane. If I hear anyone suggest that the pain is worth twice the horsepower I will ever need, or that our nation is prosperous because it ignores traffic casualties, I am very likely going to physical with that person.

At the least I will leap up and breathe into their nostrils--and tell them that whiplash is contagious. Well, it isn't really. And I would not wish debilitating whiplash pain on anyone. Still, it might help my chronic pain to get the message out.