Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sometimes, humans do stupid things: FILM AT 11

Matthew Yglesias notes that driving a car is very likely to kill your child. Yes, you--you in the back, dangling your remote starter, waiting for the lecture to be over. This is actually a really important point: owning a car is basically the leading cause of death for children.

Don't believe me? Here's the Center for Disease Control's statistics for causes of death in 2007 (I assume 2007 is the latest year for which complete data is available.)

So, "unintentional injury" is the leading cause of death, ahead of homicide by a country mile. Note for a moment that "only" 2,285 children died of homicides that year. What, exactly, makes up "unintentional injury"?

More than twice as many children are killed in traffic accidents as are murdered. The reasons for this are pretty simple: children don't die of heart disease or cancers (mostly) because they're not smokers or sedentary overeaters. (Yet.) So motor vehicle fatalities are the biggest remaining cause. And yet, people regularly choose to drive their children to school for fear of some trauma befalling their children on the way there. Because people don't regularly research childhood death statistics (and really, who would want to?) people don't realize that by unnecessarily putting their kids in a car, they're putting them in more danger, not less.


Catelli said...

Some "people regularly choose to drive their children to school for fear of some trauma befalling their children on the way there." But there are other factors at play.

Others have to ever since intercity buses were cancelled by the school boards. And in our area, the schools are in neighbourhoods full of retirees (the kids that went to those schools when they were built grew up and moved away, the parents are now retired and still living there) that our neighbourhood is a decent hike away. We have no choice but to drive the kids to school. When they're old enough (grade 4 age) they'll walk by themselves. But that's 6 years of a daily drive.

Cannot ignore our screwed up wandering suburban design that makes all transportation options inefficient.

Catelli said...

There's also the question of how many of those fatalities happened as part of a normal school day, and not during trips to grammas or on the family vacation. My bet is the trips for leisure have a higher incidence of accidents and fatalities.

Noumenon said...

Isn't walking more dangerous per mile traveled, though? Maybe not with crossing guards.

adam said...

@ Catelli

The majority of accidents occur close to home rather than on long distance trips. I don't know how the fatalities would relate though - high speed accidents on highways tend to be more severe, but on the other hand, the sheer number of local accidents (80%) could mean that they contribute heavily as well.