A Tale of Two Pandemics
The COVID-19 pandemic versus the pandemic of car crashes.
Posted Nov 10, 2020
We know that just over 100 years ago, the 1918 pandemic took over 50 million lives around the world. Last year, car crashes resulted in over 50 million causalities and an estimated 1.25 million deaths worldwide. Being injured in a car accident is one of the leading causes of disability, and in some age groups, the leading cause of death.
From my practice treating survivors of severe auto accidents over the past two decades, I have seen up close the blink-of-an-eye devastation that forever changes the life trajectories of those injured and their family members. Traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain conditions, depression, anxiety, and panic disorders are often unleashed in the wake of a crash. Between 2008 and 2018, nearly 20 million people in the United States were seriously injured in car accidents. In many cases, victims are unable to return to their regular employment as a result of their injuries. The burden on the national economy is enormous. The human pain and suffering are truly unfathomable.
With few exceptions, there is little public attention brought to the ongoing global pandemic of motor vehicle accidents. One exception that I mention in the epilogue of my book is the National Road Victim Month declared by RoadPeace, a British road crash charity which was started in 1993. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the third Sunday of every November as the World Day of Remembrance to acknowledge the victims of car crashes and their families. Not many people are aware of this special day of remembrance.
What is so tragically different from the current COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing pandemic of car crashes? The latter is largely preventable by altering human behaviors. Safer driving, improved and more accessible driver training programs, safer roads with better traffic laws, improved law enforcement, and increased vehicle safety would eliminate a vast percentage of crashes.
In my view, I would love to see the auto industries, national, and state governments step forward to promote November as Road Victim Month. There is so much that could be done for so little. Raising awareness, as with most things human, is key. Increasing our efforts for keeping ourselves and our children safer on the roads is vital.
James F. Zender, PhD (2020). Recovering from Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.