| 03.18.2018

Perilous and preventable — Car collisions are inevitably human, but preventable


Spotify was lagging, and no matter how many times I stabbed the play button, my phone wouldn’t begin my favorite playlist. I didn’t see the intersection, or the stop sign, or the oncoming car making a le turn.
I only saw the after effects of the crumpled front bumper of my 1995 Toyota Camry.

We often treat car collisions as blameless forces of nature — they are “accidents” after all. But, they are distinctly human.

Overconfidence, sleepiness, drunkenness and distraction are killing an increa ing number of Americans each year. The National Safety Council reports that in 2016, traffic fatalities creeped over 40,000 for the first time in a decade — a six percent increase from the amount of deaths in 2015 and a 14 percent increase from 2014.

Driving related deaths are increasing, even while car safety technology improvements indicate an alarming failure on the driver’s behalf in the United States.

The vast majority of Americans see themselves as good drivers, a landmark study found that 93 percent of motorists consider their driving skills to be above average. This confidence behind the wheel gives people a sense of control they don’t have, for example, when they board a plane. Consciously or unconsciously, drivers reason that they can maneuver their way out of any dicey situation.

But even the savviest driver is no match for the amount of sleepy, intoxicated and distracted drivers in this country. American roads are unusually deadly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 18,000 lives would be saved each year if traffic deaths in the United States happened at the same rate as the rest of the developed world.

There is no mystery behind the loss of these 18,000 lives. Their deaths are not senseless.

When someone decides to eat a sand- wich, shoot their friend a text or apply makeup while driving to work, it makes sense that lives are at risk.

When someone decides to power through their fatigue during a long road trip instead of pulling over and napping, it makes sense that lives are at risk.

When someone decides to play around with Spotify instead of watching the road, it makes sense that lives are at risk.

We have allowed these behaviors to become habits and the deaths they engender to become routine. More than one hundred Americans die every day in car collisions, and not because of abstract forces beyond our control. They fall victim to other people’s convenience, the pettiest of human desires.

No one was hurt after my accident, but everyone was scared. I was partway through eleventh grade, having been driving for only six months, and didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. The woman I hit thought I was some sort of criminal, immediately calling the police and asking if I had car insurance.

I rolled my eyes, we exchanged insurance information, and the police officer told us to go home. Life continued.

Maybe if I had recognized the humanity and avoidability lurking behind nearly all car collisions, I might have thought twice before pulling out my phone.

Danny Bugingo can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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