Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where is Joe Nocera's Weekend Car Report?

Jeeze, I was just texting my girlfriend...its not my fault..
accidents just happen, you know...

In a 2013 report, the CDC tells us 4,565 children and teens younger than 20 were killed in motor vehicle mishaps during one year.  That's more than 3.3 Newtowns per week. According to the Huffington Post, the FBI says 565 people under the age of 18 were murdered with guns in 2011, or 0.42 Newtowns per week.

Joe Nocera does a New York Times blog every weekend on gun deaths titled "The Weekend Gun Report". This week, he highlighted the 25th Anniversary of the Stockton, CA mass murder where a demented man with a criminal history nonetheless bought an AK-47 and shot up a school, blowing away 5 and wounding thirty. Not to make light of gun deaths, but it seems odd that we ignore a carnage of unintended childhood death even greater than the gun problem.

number of passenger vehicles in the U.S. ~250 million
                  deaths per car/deaths per gun slightly greater than 1         
---the usual Wikipedia sources

Americans respond to catastrophes like Newtown but tend to ignore the everyday low level carnage like the guy next door splattering a kid who is crossing the street in front of his Nissan (why I pick Nissan will be obvious later). We ignore it unless, of course, its our kid.  Nonetheless, what I would like to know is when someone like Mr. Nocera will start up a Weekend Car(-nage) Report cataloging all those people who are killed on our roads. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told us in 2004, "...Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old...". I did a quick check and found more recent CDC figures saying drowning and suffocation are the leading cause of unintended death for very young children, but overall, its definitely traffic. See Table 1.

If you have ever witnessed an auto fatal (I have) you note that the level of violence doesn't take a back seat to a shooting. That dirty little secret of our out of control car culture always seems to be swept under the rug. Anyone who thinks the gun culture is seemingly immune from reason or compromise should show up at a traffic safety hearing where traffic calming or traffic cameras are being discussed.  Furthermore, when it comes to cars, irresponsibility sells. While we condemn gun violence and would never think of selling guns with TV ads showing lunatics hosing down grade schools with 5.56x45 mm, we glorify insane driving by psychotic drivers.  See below. The fantasy of irresponsibility sells product.

Professional Driver? Do not attempt? Then why show it? This promotes irresponsible conduct.

 "Closed range. Simulated small children and teachers. Professional shooter. Don't try this at home." 

Whenever I bring up the comparison of the rough equivalency between gun and auto deaths in the United States, I am told by the well meaning reader that guns are meant to kill and cars are meant for transportation, your typical car advertisement (ego, prestige, power, sex, fantasy) not withstanding. Gun deaths are often deliberate, whether suicide or homicide. Car deaths are called "accidents" and somehow the victim is not quite as wrongfully dead. Indeed, cars are not meant to kill, but they do a damn nice job when handled incompetently, lawlessly, or carelessly, covered over by a culture of complacency that treats dangerous driving as either socially acceptable, as long as its with a disclaimer, or a simple "violation", thus  blurring the distinction between a real accidental occurrence and the statistically likely outcome of misbehavior behind the wheel.

Alfred Nobel invented high explosives. Explosives can be used to construct things like bridges or dams or to blow them up in war. That duality of purpose, after all, is why we kill so many with cars.
You won't find this Bushmaster ad on TV, 
or virtually any other gun ad, 
but sadly, you could have found it on the Internet.
 If you buy one of these as "tool compensation", 
 that's a worrisome reason.

So pardon me if I suggest that if we concentrated on civic responsibility more than a little bit and hold ourselves accountable a lot more, we might reduce the death toll from both cars and guns. Laws can only do so much. Especially with a revolving door justice system that rewards social irresponsibility. For example,this guy on DWI #8.


Steve A said...

Austin Healey drivers do not text. In some ways, even worse (despite containing Ian's chase helicopter) is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUe5aoUl8vo

Khal said...

Lovely video. I exchanged it.

Anonymous said...

Gun vid to go along with the car vid...


Khal said...


Steve A said...

I saw the cops start chasing a "runner" the other day. Apparently not all anti-social Nissan driving is by professional drivers on closed courses. Maybe the guy watched one too many of their commercials. Imagine the outcry if Colt made similar "fantasy" commercials.

Khal said...

The NFL rejected a gun commercial that didn't even show a gun or any violence or socially irresponsible conduct. Does anyone see a double standard here?