Recently, the largest mass civilian shooting in US history dominated the news. 50 killed and 53 injured. These results are record-breaking, but mass killing is so common—the list of the 25 deadliest dates from 1982— that, as the National Post wrote: “in a culture so numb to violence …despite this shooting’s awful and novel political permutations, we’ve all run out of original things to say.”
For certain, the debate over how to control this sort of crime will be re-ignited, which inevitably prompts counter-arguments asking, for example, whether or not cars are to blame for vehicle deaths, and if so, whether cars should be banned.
All of which in turn prompts Road Rules to reflect on road carnage and our numbness to it. Divide the recent annual (rough) fatality counts from vehicle crashes in Canada and the US by 365 and the results are respectively six and 90 fatalities per day. Also consider that Canada’s population is roughly one-tenth the population of the US.
The following passage from No Accident, Neil Arason (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014) echoes this reflection and provides the recent world-wide numbers:
“From the time the first automotive traffic death occurred at the end of the nineteenth century, even before the age of mass production, we would allow automobiles, in mounting numbers, to run over our fellow human beings, disfigure them, inflict pain on them, and kill them in acts of bloody violence. We would give implicit permission for this to reoccur on a daily basis for over a century to come. Today, thirty-three hundred people die every day on the world’s roads.”
Mr. Arason discusses possible reasons for our road carnage numbness and proclivity for stalling-out on road safety initiatives. He notes that road crash victims “get killed or injured only one or a few at a time.” He notes that “the human trauma that originates in the road system does not originate in one major and single unpredictable event, but manifests instead as a steady form of common violence…[and thus not] one that can be fundamentally altered and reframed.” Episodic and disconnected media coverage only reinforces our collective numbness and apathy.
Road Rules has written before about the crashes that do attract media attention: those with many killed and injured by the actions of one driver—the narrative, again, of the destructive force of one sole actor.
The latest three examples from early June: a Saskatoon woman who admitted to impaired driving in a crash on a highway north of Saskatoon that killed a couple and their two young children; a 50-year-old pick-up truck driver in western Michigan who struck a group of cyclists killing five and injuring four—described as “one of the worst, if not the worst, bicycling-motorist accidents in the county;” and a bus driver in southern Brazil about 60 kilometres east of Sao Paulo who lost control speeding around a curve killing 16 and injuring 20 of his passengers.