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Kris
March 13th, 2004, 03:54 PM
March 13, 2004

OP-ED COLUMNIST

117 Deaths Each Day

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Here's a pop quiz. Rank the following in order of the number of American lives they claim in a typical year: food, guns, terrorists, flu and cars.

Ready? The most deadly are automobiles, which kill 117 Americans a day, or nearly 43,000 a year. Then comes flu, which (along with pneumonia, its associated disease) kills 36,000 people. Third is guns: 26,000 deaths. Fourth, food-borne illness: 5,000. And finally, terrorism, which in a typical year claims virtually no U.S. lives with horrific exceptions like 2001. But antiterrorism efforts get most of the attention and the resources.

To a point, that's sensible. The train bombings in Madrid are a reminder of our vulnerability. President Bush is right to emphasize the risk from W.M.D., because a single nuclear bomb could claim 500,000 lives.

Still, we need a balance in confronting threats, and I don't think we've found it. Watch President Bush's campaign ads, and it's clear that he's overwhelmingly focused on the war on terrorism in 2001, he called it "my primary focus." As he put it this year, "I'm a war president."

Mr. Bush's intensity and unwavering purpose comforted the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. But America is too complex to have national policy reduced to the single overarching priority of counterterrorism.

"It's an important threat, but it cannot be the organizing principle of our foreign policy," argues Ivo Daalder, a former national security official who is co-author of "America Unbound," an excellent (and respectful) book about Mr. Bush's administration. "There are worse threats out there. Climate change. H.I.V./AIDS."

Or, I would say, nuclear proliferation. Or cars.

Vehicle fatalities don't get attention because they occur in ones and twos. If people died at the same rate but in one horrifying crash a month that killed 3,500 people, then Mr. Bush and Congress would speedily make auto safety a priority and save thousands of lives a year. As Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has said: "If we had 115 people die a day in aviation crashes, we wouldn't have a plane in the sky."

"Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do," note Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, two Yale professors, in their book about innovative thinking, "Why Not?" They note that a major effort by Sweden has reduced traffic deaths by encouraging seat belt use, converting intersections to traffic circles (they "soothe" traffic), replacing rigid guardrails with new rails or cables that absorb or "catch" cars, and exhorting cyclists to wear helmets. The upshot is that Sweden 's accident rate is one of the lowest in the world.

"If the United States could achieve Sweden's current standard, this would save 12,500 lives per year," the authors say.

Granted, it seems less presidential to call for more guardrails than to invade Middle Eastern countries. And, in fairness, President Bush's head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, is pushing hard to save lives in unheralded ways, from improving S.U.V. design to getting drivers to check their tire pressure.

A month before Dr. Runge took up his post, several teenagers were rushed to the hospital where he worked as an emergency room physician. The driver in their car, a 17-year-old redhead named Sarah Longstreet, was known in her high school for her friendliness and her Bible Club activities. She wore a seat belt and her air bag inflated, but she died when a Ford Explorer veered across the center line and plowed right over the hood of her Mazda. That incompatibility in the two cars' designs made her one more unnecessary auto fatality and she became "sort of an angel to me," Dr. Runge said.

So when I asked him about priorities, he answered this way:

"First off, we have to do everything we're doing for counterterrorism," he said. "There's nothing that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing, and you can make the case that we should be doing more. . . . However, we're still losing 115 people a day on the highways, and basically the perpetrators of those deaths also fit within a profile" such as alcohol abusers.

Governing the U.S. is like playing 200 simultaneous chess matches (while whiny columnists second-guess every move on every board). The terrorism chessboard is among the most important, but if we could just devote a bit more energy to the others, we could save thousands of lives including the life of the next Sarah Longstreet.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Freedom Tower
March 13th, 2004, 04:11 PM
Oh boy!, another liberal ideological article with no basis in reality. Stupid articles like that remind me why I don't vote for Democrats.

Terrorism is currently a HUGE problem. Ignoring it would make it get worse. The fact that after 2001 we fought back is what stopped more attacks from happening and is why now there aren't more deaths every year from terrorism.

But what can we do about auto accidents? They happen, they are a part of life. We make better safety in cars and use seatbelts but we will never be able to go without any accidents or deaths from them, it's impossible. The only way to stop accidents is to stop driving.

Food born illnesses, happen. We try to prevent them but they are not always preventable.

TERRORISM IS THE DELIBERATE KILLING OF PEOPLE. That is preventable 100%. Should we ignore it to look at "the bigger picture?"

Everyone will die one day, so using the logic of this article why don't all of our efforts go to finding a cure for death itself? I'll tell you why because there is no stopping death! Because everyone has to die someday, it is unstoppable.

Using more logic from this article: The sun will stop burning and the earth will fall out of its orbit eventually, kiling EVERYONE and EVERYTHING on the planet. So in that case why focus on stopping pollution when we should find a way to let the sun shine forever. It's ridiculous. Some things are unpreventable and INEVITABLE. No way to stop it. Just because the eventual destruction of earth is going to kill more people than terrorism doesn't mean all of our federal money should go to researching a substitute for the earth.

Sure let Kerry, another liberal democrat, get elected and see what happens when he does the things listed in this article. We will stop fighting terrorism since it kills so few people :roll: . Then in twelve years when we have no more landmarks in this country left standing and a population living in fear for their lives we will wonder why someone didn't spend more money fighting terrorism.

ZippyTheChimp
March 13th, 2004, 05:15 PM
So much here to comment on that it's too overwhelming.

I'll pass - let someone else have a go.

Gulcrapek
March 13th, 2004, 05:56 PM
*walks over to the bleachers and sits next to Zippy*

Another non-combatant here, but hella interested in the show.

TonyO
March 13th, 2004, 06:32 PM
Then in twelve years when we have no more landmarks in this country left standing and a population living in fear for their lives we will wonder why someone didn't spend more money fighting terrorism.

Is this just flame-bait? The current administration would love to have people with this fear in their heads. It's ridiculous.

Why is it so difficult to understand that this issue is more than just black and white? The article doesn't say that we should stop fighting terrorism altogether...it just says we should keep it in perspective.

My prescription for this ailment: turn off Fox News, talk with more people and actually listen to them.

Freedom Tower
March 13th, 2004, 07:04 PM
Then in twelve years when we have no more landmarks in this country left standing and a population living in fear for their lives we will wonder why someone didn't spend more money fighting terrorism.

Is this just flame-bait? The current administration would love to have people with this fear in their heads. It's ridiculous.

Why is it so difficult to understand that this issue is more than just black and white? The article doesn't say that we should stop fighting terrorism altogether...it just says we should keep it in perspective.

My prescription for this ailment: turn off Fox News, talk with more people and actually listen to them.

This is ridiculous fear? To fear that terrorists will attack our landmarks is ridiculous? Hmmm, I believe two of them are missing already. If anti-terorism efforts are watered down the problem will only get worse, not better.

What do you consider to be kept in perspective?! For whatever preparations that were being made internationally was there not a terorrist attack two days ago? This shows we need to INCREASE our effort to get rid of al qaeda and other terror groups, not spend less.

First september 11th happened and we weren't ready so now we are preparing! The public complained we were unprepared immediately after 911. Now the liberal media is complaining we are TOO prepared. GIve it a rest!

Two days after a large scale train attack in Spain an article is posted saying anti-terrorism efforts are being focused on too heavily. Obviously this is not true because if we were even giving it about the right amount of attention, nevermind too much, the attacks would have stopped by now. (In 3 years there is a lot countries can do to eliminate the terrorist threat.)

And the timing of the article posted is awful and offensive, TWO days after 200 people are killed in Spain. Yes, the article focuses on America specifically, but this can happen and probably will happen here again if more isn't done. The government IS focused on anti terrorism now, but shouldn't they be? Unless we must wait until an average of 20,000 Americans are killed a year for it to be important? Let's ask NIcholas D. Kristoph when about the right number of Americans are being killed.

Think about it. If after Pearl Harbor, an article said "The amount of Americans killed by the Japanese military is usually zero." would you stop spending on World War II? I think not. Surely they didnt kill many Americans in 1940 and the years before, but should we ignore 1941 like 2001 is now being ignored? The only thing that makes this different is we are at war with terrorist groups, not countries, which makes it easy to forget they are there. So morons like Nicholas D. Kristoph can make some money writing articles that he secretly hopes will help Kerry win the election of 2004.

Terrorism is an emerging threat. It isn't something that has been around for a long time, like car accidents and food poisoning.

Also, Nicholas D. Kristoph isn't exactly "fair and balanced" so I think I'll stay tuned in to Fox News if you don't mind. Any article posted by him is sure to be anti-bush, left wing nonsense.

TonyO
March 14th, 2004, 04:33 PM
When its your time, its your time. The best we can do is to protect ourselves as well as we reasonably can, without burdening our future with debt, stripping away our rights, and living in fear.

That's all I am going to say. Sorry Zippy, I'm not going to be your cheap entertainment. :)