Statistically speaking, flying in a commercial airliner is one of the safest forms of travel. But if an airliner crashes and people are killed the incident makes front page and sometimes national headlines and people are scared to death. The same goes for the infrequent railroad accident where a few people are killed. Railroad transportation officials quickly become outraged and publicly call for more safety measures to be put in place to protect passengers.
Terrorism on average in the united states kills less than 100 people per year but the media and our politicians provide a steady stream of ideas on how keep us safe from terrorists and have installed metal detectors in schools and X-ray body scanners in airports. But it seems that nothing is being done to come up with ideas as to how to stop the number one killer of people under age 45 in the United States every year … motor vehicle wrecks.
Driving an automobile is simple, fun and convenient and now with the price of a barrel of oil at historical record lows, it’s also very affordable. Forget the death statistics and forget the environment, getting in your car on a moment’s notice to go to work, to the mall, to a friend’s house, or where ever is taken for granted. There is no other way to get where you need to go. The problem is that driving in a car is the most dangerous thing we do and your chances of dying in an automobile wreck are many times greater than your chances of being killed in a plane crash, a railroad accident or a terrorist attack… combined!
So why isn’t the subject of motor vehicle safety given more attention by the media? Why don’t we as a society care about the number of people dying from motor vehicle wrecks? Why aren’t the statistics on automobile fatalities and injuries causing a public outcry?
Perhaps the reason we as a society don’t seem to care is that most of us view driving an automobile as inherently safe, and we think that way because most of the people that have auto accidents are those that are in one way or another breaking the law. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, distracted driving, and speeding are the three leading causes of automobile accidents that cause injuries and fatalities. We are not the ones who are going to take drugs or drink and drive. We are not going to speed and drive angrily or recklessly. And we certainly aren’t going to be distracted by the kids yelling and screaming, a puppy jumping around, or text messages, notifications, and phone calls coming in on our smart phones while we are driving. We feel that we have identified these issues as the causes of automobile accidents and now it is up to law makers and law enforcement to get these menaces off the road. But as the traffic statistics bear out, the current penalties for DUI, distracted driving and speeding are not adequate to harness the problems and more people are dying every year than ever as a result.
Three simple technological solutions could go a long way toward removing the leading causes of death and injuries on our nation’s highways. It’s not of whether or not the technology exists because it does. Why can’t we use our advances in modern technology to implement mandatory locking systems on all cars that prevent a person who is impaired by alcohol from entering the vehicle? Why can’t we force automobile manufacturers to install devices that will disable one’s cell phone except for emergency calls while moving in a motor vehicle? Why can’t we make cars that automatically governed ones speed so as not to go above a certain mph?
It’s up to our law makers show the political leadership to force automobile manufacturers to install theses safety devices in our motor vehicles. Tens of thousands of American lives could be saved each year.