In America, it has long been taboo to pay critical attention to automobiles’ centrality in our lives. It remains a very effective and important taboo.
Witness “The Toll of America’s Obesity,” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. In it, a pediatrician and an economist, both from Harvard, review the basic facts about the continuing escalation of obesity rates and burdens in the United States. In the author’s view, obesity is a “diet-related disease.”
And, indeed, so it is.
But can anybody think of another reason why obesity has been relentlessly worsening across recent decades? Might it have anything to do with the continuing automobilization of our lifespaces? Might worsening fatness in America also be caused by our ever-deepening, never-so-much-as-mentioned subjection to mandatory cars-first transportation policies and outcomes?
The question answers itself, yet remains utterly out-of-bounds. This is true even on the political left, which has never quite summoned the chutzpah to take the first step toward transcending prevailing ideology/taboo. That first step would be a serious class analysis of transportation in the USA.
The rescue of 12 Thai children aged 11 to 16 is the lead story in the world corporate media today. This, of course, is only fitting, since we all value the lives of children so highly. To lose a child is the ultimate tragedy.
Except when it is not.
According to NHTSA data, in the year 2016, automotive collisions killed 1,797 children aged 16 and under in the United States. Literally zero news outlets have have reported this fact, just as zero (other than DbC) are mentioning it now.
The loss of 5 kids under sixteen every single day is simply uninteresting and unmentionable here in the land of the free and home of the brave, because attending to it would point up the fact that corporate capitalism’s core commodity is the leading cause of death for American children aged 1 and above.
In a prior post, DbC misread the statistics and mis-reported the story of the death of children in the United States. In preparing that post, I mistook the number of children who were involved in a fatal car crash with the number of children killed in car crashes.
The real story is that, in the year 2016 (the most recent available), a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 24 died in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Of these, 8,210 died in car crashes. That is 19.5 percent of the total.
So, the true story is this: Automotive collisions are the leading cause of death in the United States for those aged 1 through 24, but the numbers are lower than DbC previously reported here. Apologies for implanting untruth.
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.