A Car Accident is No Accident

Car accidents aren’t anything of the sort. We don’t say “plane accident.”:

[T]he term “accident” makes it seem like crashes are inevitable, rather than preventable. In a subtle way, it normalizes the crash and discourages us from looking more deeply into their causes — whether alcohol, reckless driving, or bad street design.

I think it’s the last point that bears out. We’ve designed streets badly over the last 60 years or so because we’ve designed them exclusively for cars. Streets designed exclusively for cars encourage high speeds and inattentiveness towards pedestrians and cyclists. What we need are streets designed for people that also accommodate cars.

We might as well call car “accidents” car terrorism, based on these statistics:


A little rough math indicates about 484,500 car deaths since 9/11 versus 74 terrorist deaths if you bunch the right-wing and muslim extremists together. That means that you’re 6574 times more likely to die in your car than from a terrorist. Where’s the public outrage demanding an immediate rethinking of our transportation policy?

While some people think that this should make us welcome self-driving cars–they’re even being welcomed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration–I think that switching out for a safer driver only clouds the point. We’ve built our cities for cars for long enough. Let’s start retrofitting them for people, before it’s too late.

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