The terrorists in our midst
They live amongst us, pretending to be normal people.
But each year they kill over 35,000 Americans.
They lead us to fight wars.
They cause catastrophic climate change.
They destroy the livability of our cities.
They lower our real estate values.
They waste our time.
Who are these domestic terrorists?
They’re car drivers, commuters, you and me (though I always commute by bike or bus).
The World Health Organization reports that every year there are about 7 million premature deaths due to air pollution.
The Union of Concerned Scientists says:
Nearly one half of all Americans—an estimated 150 million—live in areas that don’t meet federal air quality standards. Passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks are the main sources of this pollution, which includes ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming emissions.
The health risks of air pollution are extremely serious. Poor air quality increases respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, heightens the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer, and burdens our health care system with substantial medical costs. Particulate matter is singlehandedly responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year.
Passenger vehicles are a major pollution contributor, producing significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollution. In 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air.
Fewer than 5000 people have died due to terrorism in America since the 1960s. But each year seven times as many people die in car crashes.
The U.S. has more than three times the road fatality rate per capita as the United Kingdom (11.6 deaths per 100,000 people versus 3.5) and more than twice the road fatality rate per vehicle (13.6 per 100,000 vehicles versus 6.2). “In the 1990s, the United Kingdom dropped its road fatalities by 34 percent. The United States managed a 6.5% reduction. Why the difference? It was mostly speed …. While the United Kingdom was introducing speed cameras, the United States was resisting cameras and raising speed limits.” [Traffic — Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), by Tom Vanderbilt, 2008]
Admittedly, for some drivers there’s no feasible alternative to traveling by car. But for many of the people on our road, carpooling or riding the bus is quite feasible and would allow them to read, nap, and avoid stress. But people want to drive because of the convenience and because it saves them some time. But at what cost to our health, our economy, our foreign policy, and the quality of our lives?