It’s that time of the year again — the day the Orwellianly-named National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announces its official count of the number of people who died in U.S. automotive collisions last calendar year.
As always, the news this year is good: In 2010, only 32,885 people were killed in car crashes! Isn’t that heart-warming?
How is this good news, you ask? What would we be saying if 2,740 among us were dying each month in war, terrorism, or some other kind of accident? Would those deaths ever be reported as happily reduced? Or would the absolute number be portrayed as a scandal, a dire emergency, or an outrage?
Would we tolerate a governmental agency supposedly charged with reducing the deaths instead playing logical tricks with the numbers — say by reporting that, while a war was killing 2,740 people a month, there were fewer deaths per enemy bullet fired? No? Then why is the NHTSA’s habit of reporting automotive crash deaths as a number per mile driven — as if what matters is the risk per distance, rather that the risk per day — not taken as its own outrage?
The answer, of course, is that because cars-first transportation is the lifeblood of corporate capitalism, its inherent dangers simply must be packaged in a favorable light, the millions of dead be damned.