On my way to curling last night, I witnessed the aftermath of a car crash in Madison that resulted in the death of one person and injuries to several others.42,643 people died on America's roads in 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available. In 2002, 43,005 people died on America's roads making highway deaths the number one cause of death among people aged 3-33. If you conservatively assume that 40,000 people have died every year since 1990, over 560,000 people will have been killed.
Everybody and their dog started a Tsunami victims relief fund when 100,000-plus people died in a one-time event. Where is the outrage about five times as many people dying in a series of events that continues right to this very moment?
If you assume 40,000 deaths per year (which is low, but easy to work with), someone dies on America's roads every 13 minutes. If you commute one-half to work in each direction, four people will die on America's roads during your daily commute.
What do we have to show for the deaths of 560,000 people? A few new suburbs, a decrepit and nearly bankrupt rail system, bankrupt or nearly bankrupt bus lines, struggling public transit systems, and some very wealthy tire, gasoline, highway construction, and automotive companies. Are those worth the price we've paid in human life?
By the time I was heading back to the house after my curling match, the accident had been clearly and the highway had been reopened to traffic. As I passed the accident scene, I looked hard to try and find some sign that marked the fact that someone lost their life on a cold Wisconsin night surrounded by screeching metal and dirty concrete.
The only thing I saw was skidmarks on the highway.