Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The deadliest "weapon", and its not an M4 Bushmaster

Kinetic energy of a 4,000 lb car at 35 mph: 164,000 ft-lbs
Kinetic energy at the muzzle of a .223 cal, 62 grain full metal jacketed bullet at 3200 ft/sec: 1410 ft-lbs

Gun homicides per day: 23
Traffic deaths per day:89
(from Mark Plotz' post below)

I've been mulling over this comparison, and Mark Plotz at the National Center for Bicycling and Walking beat me to posting it, when he put up the note appended below on the NCBW e-newsletter. Deaths are deaths, and there are too many preventable ones happening due to carelessness, recklessness, criminal intent, and the lack of society upholding the requirement that a nation of free people demands the best in citizenship, not the lowest common denominator. We tend to focus on the unusual big catastrophe when a gunman shoots up a school, and ignore the constant, low level violence going on around us as 89 people die in traffic crashes every day, most of them easily preventable.  --Khal

By Mark Plotz, Senior Associate / Program Manager
The National Center for Bicycling & Walking

Last week NHTSA released its injury/fatality numbers for 2011. The news is great... for those of us who travel ensconced in airbags, crumple zones, and fine Corinthian leather: there were 632 fewer deaths and 22k fewer injuries than in 2010. For the rest of us, the news isn't so good: 130 more pedestrians and 54 more bicyclists died on our roadways than in 2010. Our numbers amount to nearly 12 percent of all road deaths. Fewer drivers are dying and more pedestrians and cyclists are being killed.

"NHTSA's numbers:
32,367 killed and 2.2m injured for all modes
21,253 killed in passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks)
4,612 pedestrians killed and 69k injured
677 bicyclists killed and 48k injured"

What do these statistics mean? Those numbers work out to nearly 89 traffic deaths per day of which 14 are pedestrians or bicyclists. If that still seems too abstract, ask yourself whether a relative of yours has been injured or killed in/by a motor vehicle. Odds are the answer is yes.

As I did the math on the NHTSA numbers, I couldn't help but draw parallels with the shootings in Newtown, CT: firearm ownership and driving are treated as inalienable rights; because of the former characteristic, both are shockingly ease to access; and the carnage caused by each--23 gun homicides per day, and 89 road deaths per day--is thought of as the-cost-of-doing-business (with some exceptions). Yet, as I awoke this morning, the nation seems to be on the cusp of meaningful reform of gun laws and the NRA has gone dark.

I am left wondering: When will our Newtown reckoning arrive?

In the decade I have been in this business, I have watched the core mission of safety be subordinated to allegiance to funders, programs, and partners. It has happened to me; who can resist the seductive idea that more biking will save the world? As we grapple with how to ensure no more Newtowns happen, let us look at our work and remember that many of us became involved in advocacy because one too many #&%#@ drivers got too #&%#@ close when we were doing nothing more extraordinary than crossing the street or biking to work.

Walking and biking should be safe, convenient, and accessible for all.

Traffic Safety Resources
NHTSA's 2011 traffic safety statistics

FBI's violent crime statistics

Strong safety advocates [Ed. Note: click to close the donation page to see 'Vision Zero NYC: Zero deaths, zero injuries, zero fear of traffic' article]

America Walks resources

For enforcement ideas and resources (see right side)


Little Jimmy said...

Thank you, Khal! We had just been discussing this very thing.

Steve A said...

Interesting, considering my pre-massacre post at

I hadn't considered the right versus privlege aspects to gun ownership.

Perhaps our founding fathers got similarly confused. If so, they provided a remedy - namely the amendment process

Khal said...

Rights come with responsibilities.

I'm troubled that the same people in the U.S. who seem shocked and horrified that an individual will mow down children in a school with an assault rifle are happy to text, speed, run lights, make a right on red without stopping, swim salmon, drive drunk, etc. Thereby putting everyone at risk.

Statistically, those chickens come home to roost--89 times a day. If we really value life, we should drive the same way we expect gun owners to shoot--with all due care as to the well being of others.

Ian Brett Cooper said...

The problem is twofold:

1. Cars aren't designed to kill.

2. Any nutcase who uses a car to kill can always use the "He swerved into my path" excuse.

Anonymous said...

Let's see:

164,000 ft lbs for the car at 35 mph.

1,410 ft lbs for the .223 per round.

That means every Lab employee in town driving to and from work is wielding (many while texting) the equivalent of emptying a Bushmaster with a 100 round high capacity magazine (and add a few rounds from the Glock).

Cars are not designed to kill, but they are high-energy, moving objects (potential for mass casualties and destruction) with their pilots isolated from reality in a cocoon of warm/cool/quiet with many distracting electronic entertainment devices.

Let's get real here. People kill people. Inanimate objects DO NOT kill people regardless of their design. Does anyone really believe we can make the world safer by removing the dangerous toys so "we" can all be as irresponsible as we please without consequence?

Dennis Kruse said...

Our legislators can legislate out everything that is dangerous but until they remove the human factor, they wll never completely remove the ability to kill by gun or car or any other inanimate object.

John said...

Part of the problem too is that to kill someone with an M4 Bushmaster usually takes intention and planning (unless it was an accident). To kill someone with a motor vehicle takes only carelessness. If "only" carelessness is involved, then people will have empathy for the motorist as well sympathy for the victim. They'll think "there but for the grace of God go I."

John said...

Especially when they don't understand the dynamics of the crash, as is often the case with car/bike crashes.