September 30, 2009

7,000 Killed by Drivers on Mobile Phones

After the American Century

We hear about it each time a soldier is killed in Iraq, but more people die each year on American highways, the victims of drivers who are busy texting or using their mobile phones. Studies have found they drive no better than drunks, causing more than 200,000 accidents every year.

I have written before in this space about the danger of texting or using mobile phones while driving. Now it turns out that the US National Highway Safety Administration did studies of this problem when it was just beginning to be serious, back in 2002. Guess what. They estimated that drivers talking on mobile phones were responsible for 955 highway deaths in that single year, plus a large number of non-fatal accidents. This number can only have risen higher since then, as more people now use these mobile devices than in 2002.

It gets worse. The bureaucrats in Washington decided to suppress these findings. The public never heard about it. The toadies did not want to anger Congress. Am I being unfair when I ask this, but is it not the duty of the National Highway Safety Administration to keep the roads safe? Hide the fact that annually 955 people (more now almost certainly) are dying on the highways because we should not anger legislators? Please recall that the idea of democracy is to serve the public, not Congress. A death toll of more than 7,000? More than 1.5 million accidents, with many maimed and damaged for life? In a statistical sense, this is about double the casualty toll from the 9/11 attacks. But these deaths happen just a few at a time, about 2 or 3 people killed every day.

Should we blame this on George W. Bush? Did anyone on his team ask that this information be squashed? Only now, due to pressure from journalists using the Freedom of Information Act, do we know that slaughter on the highways was thought preferable to riling up Congress. For more on this shameful episode, click here. But please do not read about it while driving.