The Chicken Littles in D.C. notwithstanding, the roads are getting safer, not more dangerous. The number of car-accident fatalities has been dropping steadily for decades. In 1990, 44,599 lost their lives in crashes. In 2010, 32,885 were killed — a decrease that is even more significant considering the rise in the total number of licensed drivers and cars on the road. According to the NHTSA, there were 1.7 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven in 1994, but only 1.14 in 2009, the lowest level in 60 years.
Alcohol-related fatalities are also down. In 1999, 22,587 people died in crashes in which alcohol was a factor. By 2004, again, despite the increase in cars and drivers, the number was 16,694. But here’s an arresting statistic: In both years, men were almost three times as likely as women to be drunk drivers. Shall we ban men behind the wheel?
The NHTSA is panicking about cell phones. Yet, another report from the NHTSA (there are so many) issued earlier this month found that only 5 percent of drivers have been observed holding cell phones to their ears while driving, and only 0.9 percent were seen to be “manipulating” a hand-held device.
People do other stupid things behind the wheel, including, but definitely not limited to, eating, arguing with passengers, applying makeup, petting their dogs, and writing government-safety recommendations.
There would be zero traffic fatalities if we simply banned cars. But the freedom and convenience are seen to outweigh the cost in lost lives. Banning cell phones in order to prevent the (perhaps) 3 percent of traffic fatalities caused by them is nanny statism pure and simple.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.