While I was catching up on reading my magazines (one of the joys of summer break) I read an article about Vietnam. It was interesting, but contained a rather disturbing statistic: 12,000 people were killed there in traffic accidents in 2006 (Smithsonian, March 2008 page 64). This number exceeds the yearly death toll on the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam (or American) War. During the war, the United States did its best to close the road using a wide variety of means, such as bombing the hell out of it with B-52s. The United States managed to kill about 30,000 people on the Trail during the war.
In the United States, about 43,000 people are killed each year in automobile accidents. This exceeds the number of people killed on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the entire war.
These numbers show a stark reality-automobiles kill a lot of people. What is especially scary is that drivers are, presumably, trying to avoid accidents and (unlike in war) not trying to kill people. This seems to indicate that automobiles are a dire threat to human life-far more so than some wars and definitely more so than terrorists.
If we are concerned about people dying, then we should really do something about all the blood staining the roads of the world. But, it is hard to imagine the government declaring a war on automobiles, though they make terrorists look like amateurs when it comes to racking up kills.
We can expect things to worsen around the world-as nations advance and gain wealth, the citizens almost always purchase cars. China, for example, has seen a significant increase in the number of cars on her streets and this number will climb. As to shall the number of traffic deaths.
In addition to direct metal on flesh killing, automobiles also harm the environment and use up resources. This merely adds to the danger presented to humanity by this monster of our own invention.
Since I’d rather not die in a traffic accident, I try to spend as little time on the road as possible and I take a very defensive approach. Of course, so much depends on others-I’ve lost track of the near accidents and the times I’ve almost been run down while running. I’ve been fairly lucky-I’ve only been hit once while running, once as a driver and only several times as a passenger.
I’ve often expressed my view of the automobile and its bloody price. But, the car is a large part of the economy and people love its convenience. Obviously, tens of thousands of deaths per year is a price people are willing to pay.