Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pay Attention: Car Accidents Kill More People Than Crime

The latest edition of AAA World, AAA's Mid-Atlantic region magazine, reminds us that our lifetime risk of dying in a car crash is three times as great as our chance of being murdered.

According to the article "Risky Business," about 43,000 people in the U.S. die every year in car crashes, with another 2.5 million suffering disabling injuries.

Those are sobering figures, but there's good news, according to AAA: Most crashes are preventable. The key to preventing car crashes: Paying attention.

A 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that lack of driver attention accounted for nearly 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes. Incidentally, cell phone use was the the most significant factor, though the AAA article also mentions adjusting the radio and other vehicle controls, eating, drinking, and talking to passengers.

The AAA article also discusses the usual suspects -- drunk driving, speeding, aggressive driving -- but also makes a big point about one other major problem: fatigue. It's hard to pay attention when you're falling asleep at the wheel.

Self defense is not just about protecting yourself from crime; it's about protecting yourself from all the dangers out there. Driving is a dangerous activity, but if you pay attention, you can minimize your risk.

Here's an excellent example of what should be a driver no-no: Jamie Lawrence reports from Korea that his bus driver was watching television while driving down a six-lane street. I'd like to think that this is just another of those wacky tales about driving in other countries, but I've seen too many ads for car TVs to discount the possibility that U.S. drivers are doing the same thing.

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