Friday, October 2, 2009

5,870 Completely Preventable Deaths In 2008

It boggles the mind even to try to imagine the heartbreak and loss that accompany each of the avoidable injuries and deaths encompassed by these statistics:
In 2008 one in six of the teenagers killed in car crashes in America was found to have been distracted, in one way or another, just prior to impact. Five years ago, the figure was one in eight. The authorities fear that the number of teenage deaths caused by distraction while driving is about to explode, given the variety of new gizmos about to invade the car.

“To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society,” Ray LaHood, America’s Transportation Secretary, told an audience of more than 300 people at a two-day summit organised by the government in Washington, DC, that kicked off on September 30th. Last year, 5,870 people (16% of overall fatalities) were killed on American roads as a result of driver distraction, and 515,000 (22% of the total) were injured.
As this "Economist" article discloses, politicians and the journalists who cover (and sometimes enable) them hear these tragic numbers and swing into action, doing what they do best -- writing and endorsing new laws and regulations and new punishments for behavior that everyone of driving age, indeed everyone walking upright, knows is reckless and morally wrong without even having to be told.

I'm not against the laws. I'm astonished how the prevailing cluelessness of my fellow human beings and me makes them advisable. California's relatively mild hands-free phone law, which I see motorists flaunting several times a day, did work for me. But I could only manage to curtail obsessively checking e-mails while driving by promising my wife I would stop. I wonder how many conservatives who rail against government limits on their freedom indulge in behavior that gives government the warrant it needs to enact them?

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