What’s a bigger threat to your life: Someone driving a car or a madman with a gun?
It isn’t the gangbanger, low-life criminal who doesn’t value life of as terrorist. It’s another driver. And given society’s lackadaisical attitude about adhering to traffic laws we seem to think all of the carnage is unavoidable.
We go as far as to call them accidents.
But what is accidental about not paying attention, driving too fast, following too close, running stop signs, or getting behind the wheel impaired? They are all conscious acts.
There were 11,078 gun-related murders in the United States in 2010, based on data compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Another 467,300 crime victims sustained non-fatal injuries from gunshots.
The majority of the victims knew their assailants.
At the same time, there were 10,076 deaths caused by drunken drivers in this country during 2010. An additional 290,000 were injured.
The vast majority did not now the drunken driver that killed or maimed them.
Another 22,682 people were killed in accidents that did not involve someone driving under the influence in 2010. An additional 1,949,000 were injured in those accidents.
Again, most of the accident victims did not know the individuals who were driving the vehicle that caused the mishap.
Gun violence is a serious concern.
It is clear, however, that we are more likely to die at the hands of a stranger driving another car or be seriously maimed or injured than to be shot or murdered by a stranger.
And unlike gun violence, we all can work to reduce the carnage on our roads.
What happened to Army Specialist Fourth Class Nick Cargill in the early morning hours of Jan. 1 was preventable. After two tours in a war zone where gun violence is an everyday thing, the Sierra High grad was T-boned at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Airport Way by an alleged drunk driver. The responsible driver hardly had a scratch while Cargill broke his neck, numerous ribs, suffered a collapsed lung, incurred brain injuries and is in a coma fighting for his life.
Manteca Police made four other DUI arrests that day, several of which resulted from minor accidents. Obviously there were many more on the road who shouldn’t have been driving.
And it’s not just those who drink that kill. Think back on 2014. We lost Manteca High freshman Zach Gomez because a driver was more intent on reaching for their cell phone than paying attention to the road. Several friends sustained critical injuries.
If you saw someone walking down the street flashing a gun, you’d call 9-1-1. At the very least you’d be alarmed.
But when we see people whip through stop signs without even slowing down, cut off pedestrians, or drive faster than firefighters do when they respond to fires we virtually shrug it off. We’ve grown numb to the most dangerous law-breakers on our streets. And in some cases it’s because we do it ourselves.
You should get a picture of Nick Cargill — the young soldier from Manteca fighting for his life — or Zach Gomez — who died after being struck by a car. You should look at them every time before you turn on the ignition of your vehicle.
Think about them when you’re tempted to do a California rolling stop simply because you are convinced the path is clear. Even if there isn’t a car or pedestrian coming, it’s a bad habit to get into as it can lull you into making the wrong move at the wrong time.
Think of them when you’re tempted to pickup up your cell phone to answer it or text while you’re driving.
We all can make the world safer by driving more seriously.
And to be honest, if Manteca had a reputation as a place where if you make a stupid move driving — excessive speed, unsafe lane exchange, rolling through a stop sign without slowing down, tailgating, and almost cutting off pedestrians — most folks would drive better.
That’s because if we perceive that someone isn’t keeping tabs on us, we often behave as if they aren’t.
Moving violations issued by Manteca Police officers were down 21.64 percent for the first 11 months of 2014 compared to the same period from the previous year, going from 1,391 to 1,090. During the same time, accidents went up 13.27 percent from 673 to 763. Manteca went from three fatal accidents in 2013 to none in 2014, although injury accidents were up 4.41 percent to 142.
Year to year, felonies are down 18.3 percent, as are misdemeanors, dropping 11.86 percent. Accidents, though, are up 13.27 percent.
There were three people killed in Manteca automobile accidents in 2013 and none murdered. In 2014, there were four murders and no fatal accidents. It is clear being killed by a car in Manteca is almost as great of a possibility as being murdered.
No one is arguing that Manteca Police shift resources or even that traffic enforcement be given the top priority when another position is added as the city’s finances improve. But it is clear that drivers in Manteca are a growing threat to themselves and others.
We need to police ourselves better. And it wouldn’t hurt having more traffic officers reminding us to do so.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.