Good News: Only 34,000 Dead

By Frank Kenna

“Remarkable… a landmark achievement.”  Those are the words used by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a release highlighting the data from 2009 showing that highway deaths fell to 33,808 for the year, the lowest number since 1950.  And I agree that, in a way, it is good news.  But in a bigger way it’s sobering news – for the families and friends of those who died.  To add to the misery, there were 2.2 million people injured during the same period, a 5.5% decrease from 2008.

But the good news is there:  the number of deaths in 2009 was 3,615 fewer than in 2008 and that should be celebrated.  Of course, those 3,615 people who didn’t die are happily oblivious.

The release didn’t show the workplace injury or death totals, but it did show them for “large trucks,” for which there was a 20-percent reduction in fatalities, from 4,245 in 2008 down to 3,380 in 2009.  Transportation safety is improving, but with thousands still dying, we can’t rest on our laurels.  We at The Marlin Company do our part, producing transportation safety posters in both print and digital versions, but we must be ever more vigilant in communicating ways to be safer.

While this is all generally good news, just think if these statistics were about some new product introduced last year, and it was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.  Whether we’re talking about at-home safety or workplace safety, the new product responsible would be completely vilified, shut down and the corporate executives would be in jail.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Chart: The Wall Street Journal

Sharon Toelle
September 13, 2010

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