(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — For the second year in a row, more than 40,000 people lost their lives to one of the most widespread causes of death in the United States: car accidents.
The National Safety Council estimates that 40,100 people were killed in accidents in 2017, though the official federal figures will be released later this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
That agency has previously estimated that “car accidents killed 37,461 people in 2016, up 5.6% from 2015,” though as USA Today notes, “The government counts only deaths on public roads, while the council includes parking lots, driveways and private roads.”
The National Safety Council estimate is down 1% from its 2016 estimate but remains six percent higher than 2015, and even the NHTSA’s figures released last year marked a nine-year high.
Several causes for the high rate of traffic deaths include distracted driving, speeding, not wearing seatbelts, and an increase in motorcycle deaths. Pedestrian deaths and drunk driving deaths also rose, according to the NHTSA’s figures released last year.
The new estimates are still higher than a widely publicized cause of death in the United States: death by gun, which accounted for 38,658 fatalities in 2016. Even still, an often underreported detail about gun deaths is is that roughly two-thirds of them are attributable to suicide — not homicide.
This is a long-term trend. As Pew Research noted in 2013:
“Since the CDC began publishing data in 1981, gun suicides have outnumbered gun homicides. But as gun homicides have declined sharply in recent years, suicides have become a greater share of all firearm deaths: the 61% share in 2010 was the highest on record.”
This trend continues, as NPR reported in 2017 that according to data from the Brady Center for Gun Violence, two-thirds of gun deaths are still caused by suicide. “There are 20,000 gun suicides in the United States every year, more than 50 every single day,” the organization pointed out.
Though the Brady Center argues that the availability of guns increases the suicide rate, particularly because suicide attempts with firearms are more successful than other methods, the massive rate of suicide built into the overall gun death rate speaks to the much deeper underlying mental health issues that cause gun violence of all kinds.
In consideration of suicide deaths, it’s also the case that gun homicide deaths on their own are also lower than deaths caused by traffic accidents (there were 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016), as well as heart disease, stroke, alcoholism, all accidents (including car accidents), diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
Though mass shootings may be sensational and traumatizing to the masses when broadcast on television on endless loops every time they occur, the recent car accident fatality report, along with longstanding figures about death in the United States underscore the futility of expecting bans on guns – or anything else — to actually save lives.
This is particularly underscored by the recent figure that heroin overdose deaths have increased 533% since 2002 despite the decades-long ban on the substance.
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