A few weeks ago, my just-turned-16-year-old daughter was at the wheel driving my son and me to his elementary school to meet his teacher for the new school year. We got stopped on a notoriously twisty road that my family often refers to as “the roller coaster road.” We saw several blue and red flashing lights just ahead, but we could not make out what had happened. Houses were on either side of us, and as we inched closer, we noticed around eight or nine people standing in the front yard of one house to our left and looking down toward the street.
No traffic was moving for about three to four minutes. An EMS truck slowly pulled into the road in front of us and drove away. A firetruck left right afterward. Then, three sheriff’s deputies grabbed reflective gear and began directing the backed-up cars and trucks that had been waiting on either side. When it was our turn to pass, we finally saw what had happened: A charred, smashed-up car was upside down in the ditch. It was hard to imagine anyone walking away from that wreck. Our whole car became silent and reflective, wondering aloud what might have happened.
I share this story because this tragic incident got me thinking (again) about the comments I hear regarding the dangers of firearms and carry permit holders. People say they are concerned about everyday people walking around our everyday lives with guns. People are afraid firearms will go off by themselves or that people will suddenly go Wild West on everyone (basically any time they get scared or angry) and use their firearms to settle price checks, road rage, rude comments or other random disagreements. David Hemenway, who led a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, alleged that “the average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense. But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately.” The responsibly armed detest those comments. We understand that firearms are for self-defense and protection and are a last resort if avoidance and escape are not options.
All that said, I would be more inclined to be concerned about vehicles in the hands of distracted drivers than firearms in the hands of permit holders. Every year, car accidents cause more injuries and deaths than any other type of personal injury incident. Get ready because this is some scary stuff. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 5,808,272 car accidents occur every year in the United States. That amounts to nearly 16,000 accidents per day. Additionally, national averages report that 2.35 million people suffer injuries or disabilities annually (that’s 6,438 per day) due to vehicular accidents, and about 37,000 fatalities every year are vehicle-related, which breaks down to more than 100 deaths per day.
In 2016, the NHTSA data showed that:
- Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 percent.
- Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4 percent.
- Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent.
- Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities — the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent.
- Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities — the highest number since 1990) increased by 9 percent.
All in all, this NHTSA data indicates that two out of three motorists will be involved in an injurious accident during their lifetimes. By car insurance industry estimates, you can expect to be involved in an accident once every 10 years. So, once every decade or so, expect to be involved in a traffic crash. With that, there is a 1 in 20 chance that the crash you have will involve a serious injury.
If you have not been in a car accident, consider yourself lucky (or overdue). Just think about how often we are in and around vehicles. We Americans typically drive a lot for road trips, vacations, errands, school drop-offs, grocery store visits and work travel. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average American driver puts in 13,474 miles behind the wheel each year. And that doesn’t include passenger time!
I may have a firearm with me at all times, but I use it only on the shooting range when I am training, at home dry-firing or cleaning it. I certainly do not spend as much time daily using my gun as I do using my car. With hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road, the odds of getting into a collision are frighteningly high. Even the most prudent drivers cannot always avoid crashes with reckless people on the roadways. (By the way, it is difficult to calculate, but the estimated number of firearms nationwide is around 300 million, and the number of registered vehicles in 2016 was 268.8 million.)
So many people are afraid of so many things, and they are often quick to assign blame to guns and gun owners. But when it comes to driving, no problem! The normalcy and the repetition of using vehicles for transportation makes us comfortable and even complacent with driving. We are all guilty of letting our guards down.
Just something to ponder.