A Deadly Story We Keep Missing

By Peter J. Woolley
Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The non-story of 2006 was also the non-story of 2005. It is a non-story every year going back decades. Yet the number of people who die in car crashes in the United States is staggering, even if it is absent from the agenda of most public officials and largely ignored by the public.

When all is said and done and the ball begins to drop on New Year's Eve, 44,000 people, give or take several hundred, will have died in auto accidents this year. To put that number in perspective, consider that:

· At the 2006 casualty rate of 800 soldiers per year, the United States would have to be in Iraq for more than 50 years to equal just one year of automobile deaths back home.

· In any five-year period, the total number of traffic deaths in the United States equals or exceeds the number of people who died in the horrific South Asian tsunami in December 2004. U.S. traffic deaths amount to the equivalent of two tsunamis every 10 years.

· According to the National Safety Council, your chance of dying in an automobile crash is one in 84 over your lifetime. But your chances of winning the Mega Millions lottery are just one in 175 million.

· If you laid out side by side 8-by-10 photos of all those killed in crashes this year, the pictures would stretch more than five miles.

· If you made a yearbook containing the photos of those killed this year, putting 12 photos on each page, it would have 3,500 pages. If you wanted to limit your traffic-death yearbook to a manageable 400 pages, you'd either have to squeeze more than 100 photos onto each page or issue an eight-volume set.

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