In 2016 in the United States, a total of 65,284 people under the age of 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 24,005, or 37 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It is a feature, not a bug, of our socio-economic order. Car crashes are the clear, long-standing #1 killer of American children. It is not a close contest, either.
On this day of rallies for sanity and democracy and public health, I think this literally unremarked fact is worth mentioning.
Maybe someday, we, the people, will shatter the Great Taboo on telling the truth about cars-first transportation in America. We’d better, because that core institution is speeding us to Carmageddon, whether we notice it or not.
Massive personal and collective harm are features, nut bugs, in cars-first transportation. Basing everyday locomotion on heavy, complex, independently-steered boxes traveling at high speeds is never going to become compatible with anything like maximum personal safety and overall ecological sustainability. The laws of physics are, as Billy Bragg once observed, very, very strict.
None of this prevents those who prosper from the sociopathic reign of the automobile from pushing, with the help (or at least the non-resistance) of those who should know better, the delusion that better roads and cars are somehow, someway going to be enough.
Witness the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which expresses legitimate alarm over the fact that 90 percent of the “1.25 million people killed on the world’s roads each year and another 20-50 million seriously injured” are residents of the Third World, but proposes to solve this problem by massively deepening the world’s reliance on automobiles.
According to the World Bank, what is needed in the Third World is more conventional development (“integration” in WB lingo), so that the Third World can become like the First World, where the level of “traffic safety” is, it says, just fine and dandy.
Should we somehow manage to transcend it and pass on the basis for further human progress, our grandchildren will want to laugh and vomit over such high-minded nonsense, which would be hugely obvious and repulsive in any age not utterly lobotomized by its own ruling ideas.
As current host of the nation’s biggest single advertising platform (the Super Bowl), NBC Sports Group has, according to today’s Advertising Age, done some extra research:
NBC analyzed the ads in the last four Super Bowls (2014-2017) based on 575 variables like creative messaging and structural elements. It then looked at the effectiveness of each ad based on five performance metrics: creative appeal, ad cut through, creative engagement, brand social and brand search. NBC will use these results to help guide advertisers on their Super Bowl creative.
Turns out that this research shows that:
If you want your Super Bowl ad to be a success, less is sometimes more. Don’t, for example, include both a puppy and a cute kid. For automakers, featuring children works best, while animals perform especially well for food and beverage brands.
So, let’s ompare and contrast, shall we, dear DbC reader?:
Item 1 — “For automakers, featuring children [in TV ads] works best.”
This ranking, which is produced and published (but never actively emphasized) only very occasionally by the (Satanically mis-named) National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, has certainly not changed since 2002. As the NHTSA explains, the long-standing fact is this:
Motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in every age from 3 through 33 for both sexes combined. [emphasis added]
So: In America, associating children with the machine that is the clear #1 death threat to children is the #1 way to sell said machines.
The research doesn’t get any clearer. But the topic is the lifeblood product of corporate capitalism, so the research gets curtly and utterly ignored.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands die. Per today’s New York Times:
[H]ighway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015.
This is America. These are our priorities, our values.
It will be somewhat interesting to see who Drumpf picks as Transportation Secretary. Evel Knievel is dead, so it’ll have to be somebody else. Not, of course, that it matters, since no topic is more thoroughly “bi-partisan,” a.k.a. shielded from any kind of democratic, humane scrutiny.
Despite their centrality to actual lives, the costs and dangers of cars-first transportation remain entirely “off the table” in our corporate capitalist, market-totalitarian society.
My great friend Douglas Pressman, who once escorted me into an ossuary located in the Czech Republic, conveyed this news item from the mighty USA Today:
Road accidents — not terrorism, plane crashes or crime — are the No. 1 killer of healthy Americans traveling abroad, a USA TODAY analysis of the past 7½ years of State Department data shows.
About 1,820 Americans, almost a third of all Americans who died of non-natural causes while abroad, have been reported killed in road accidents in foreign countries from Jan. 1, 2003, through June 2010. On average, one American traveler dies on a foreign road every 36 hours.
This, of course, is peanuts compared to the number of people killed here and around the world by cars when not on vacations or buying or spying junkets.
But it highlights the fact that our overclass simply suppresses rational public discussion of automotive death and dismemberment.
There were 2,996 people killed by the 911 terrorist attack. That is one-eleventh the number of people killed in U.S. car crashes in 2009, a year hailed by NHTSA officials and even Ralph Nader as a wondrously safe annum automobilis.
Despite their centrality to our transportation order and to ordinary people’s actual lives, the costs and dangers of cars-first transportation remain entirely “off the table” in our corporate capitalist, market-totalitarian society. Some deaths sell, and some don’t.
Death and doohickeys — great for business at Ford.
This from Ford (via Automotive News):
DETROIT — Ford’s growing reputation as a technology-driven brand is helping the automaker wring more money out of every car it sells, the automaker’s vice president of product development, Derrick Kuzak, said today.
During a speech to an auto electronics show here, Kuzak said Ford’s average revenue per vehicle jumped 14 percent from 2008 to 2009, to $26,100. He attributed roughly one-third of the increase to new technologies such as the Sync in-car communication system.
Kuzak said one-third of people who bought a Ford, Lincoln or Mercury said the Sync system helped sway their decision.
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in car crashes caused by distracted driving.
Death and doohickeys — great for business at Ford.