Cars, Not Germs, Are the Bigger Threat

Saturday, May 9, 2009

We are in the midst of an epidemic, although it is not the one that is gathering countless hours of news coverage. It does not involve influenza or any other transmissible disease. Rather, it is the epidemic of motor vehicle crashes.

As an emergency physician, I see many people coming to the emergency room with concerns about "swine flu." However, that number pales in comparison to the number of people that I treat who have been injured in vehicle crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 1,639 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in this country, with two reported deaths. In 2007, 41,059 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes and almost 2.5 million were injured. This is an average of 110 fatalities and 6,800 injuries daily. Virginia has already reported 219 motor vehicle deaths this year.

With all the emphasis on containing the spread of the flu [news story, May 6], it is odd that people are apathetic about containing the toll of vehicle crashes. Last year the Virginia General Assembly bowed to constituent pressure and repealed heavy fines designed to discourage dangerous driving [Metro, March 28, 2008].

Perhaps if we start referring to "accidents" as "swine collisions," motor vehicle crashes will finally gain the attention they deserve.



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