In 2016 in the United States, a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 8,210, or 19.5 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It happens every year on a similar order.
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.
Mostly to automate long- and short-distance delivery driving (i.e., to further reduce labor costs), the overclass is sponsoring a huge and massively hyped research project, in hopes of coming up with robo-trucks and robo-taxis. So, imagine a triple trailer running on “AI” as you watch this video of a Tesla driver saving at least two cars full of people from “autopilot” catastrophe:
Turns out that successfully driving automobiles — and success kills 40,000 a year in the USA and 1.25 million worldwide — is extremely complex.
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 most common cause of death in children under the age of 15 is unintentional injury, and the most common cause of unintentional injury is car accidents. Between 2010 and 2014, 2,885 children died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide — an average of 11 children a week. That number excludes pedestrians.
That is Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which represents the branch of the capitalist class that collects its rents from tweaking basic public inventions like computers, cell phones/radios, satellites, and the internet.
It turns out, to the surprise of nobody who cares about elemental reality, that the products Mr. Shapiro’s clients sell are extremely dangerous when combined with capitalism’s #1 product, automobiles. As reported by Automotive News:
10 percent of the 35,092 fatal crashes in 2015 involved at least one distracted driver, resulting in 3,477 fatalities, up 9 percent from 2014. Distraction was also factor in 16 percent of the 5.6 million non-fatal crashes in 2014, the most recent data available, the [NHTSA] said.
The NHTSA has responded to this public health emergency with — you guessed it — voluntary guidelines for the slightly less deadly deployment of the offending products.
This is where Mr. Shapiro comes in:
Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, called the guidelines “de-facto” regulations that defy calls from lawmakers for the Obama administration to refrain from issuing new regulatory actions until the next administration.
“NHTSA doesn’t have the authority to dictate the design of smartphone apps and other devices used in cars — its legal jurisdiction begins and ends with motor vehicle equipment,” Shapiro said in the statement. “Under their vision, they would have the influence to control the design of technology products down to the fitness tracker worn on a driver. Such a vast and extreme expansion of NHTSA’s authority, if it were to happen, would have to be explicitly granted by Congress.”
Sounds a lot like what the booze industry thinks of MADD. Mr. Shapiro gets millions a year to make sure thousands of extra people keep dying in entirely preventable carnages. All on behalf of the already fantastically wealthy corporate overclass, of course.
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.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Orwellianly-named (ponder the concept: “highway safety”) federal agency in charge of making sure the inherently dangerous, planet-killing technology known as the automobile keeps a viable public image, “car crashes are one of the leading killers of U.S. children age 1 to 13.” That’s the audio product. When it comes time to put the story in print, the NHTSA writes: “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old.” [emphasis added in both quotes]
Why does the NHTSA pull its punches in this blatant manner? Can anybody think of a reason? Could it be that perpetuating cars-first transportation is “one of” the sociopathic behaviors our corporate overclass can’t live without?