In a discussion that developed in the comments to an entry I posted about the different threats faced by New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers (in which I noted–perhaps hyperbolically–that “riding the subway is orders of magnitude safer than driving, so much so that even if there were a suicide bombing on the subway every day, the average subway rider would probably still be statistically safer than the average automobile commuter,” and asked, “Whereâ€™s the War on Drunk Driving?”) Marijo commented:
Do you see how, even though the percentage of auto fatalities caused by drunks has diminished steadily, the overall number of fatalities stays roughly the same? Not that I advocate drunk driving, or anything like that, but itâ€™s clear that automobiles are a fundamentally unsafe mode of transportation, even when the drivers are stone cold sober and fully licensed. Drunks are being used as a smokescreen here.
I do think drunk drivers pose an ongoing and reducible risk to themselves, their passengers, and others on the road, and so aren’t being used as a smokescreen. But if blaming drunk drivers is screening anything, I suspect it’s screening the fact that the growth of SUVs as a proportion of American vehicles is why traffic fatalities haven’t dropped as the fatalities caused by drunk driving have (both because theyâ€™re more likely to be in accidents and because when theyâ€™re in an accident, theyâ€™re more likely to cause fatalities in whatever or whoever they hit). I’ve never been enamored of SUVs for the average driver, and I find SUVs decorated with “Support Our Troops” magnets on them especially offensive, but I’ve never really felt directly threatened by SUVs. However, today Gothamist notes of SUVs:
Though they comprise [sic] fewer than 15% of passenger vehicles in the city they were responsible for 26% of pedestrian deaths from passenger vehicles.
SUVs truly threaten us all.