Learning to care

I totalled a car once. I was younger and I liked and at the time needed to go fast for reasons which aren’t clear to me now, at all. I had some bumps but because of the country roads that I drove on I didn’t hit any other cars. The only time I did wasn’t my fault. It happened when someone with his whole small family in the car decided to turn into a side road, across my lane. I braked and turned as well but it was just physics – I couldn’t stop fast enough to avoid hitting him. Nobody was hurt.

I nearly killed my best friend. She would have been dead if she hadn’t put on the seat belt she ought to have been wearing anyway, just a few minutes before I ran out of road one icy night on a reverse camber corner in the middle of nowhere, but sadly somewhere not quite remote enough not to have a telegraph pole that I put smack in the middle of the front of the car. She still talks to me.

If you pick up any newspaper you’ll see what you’re supposed to be afraid of this week. It could be immigrants, ISIS, D’aesh, Al-Quaeda or Cilla Black’s ghost maid, which according to the Daily Express is a real thing. Between them all, these sources of supreme evil managed to kill less than 10 UK citizens in 2013. You killed over 1,700. That’s probably why it’s not in the news.

According to the Government – and you can see the exact figures if you click on the link about how many people you killed – in 2013 1,713 people were killed in road accidents in the UK. More than rail crashes, airplane crashes, shipwrecks or acts of any war we’ve had for decades. And we don’t care. If we did we’d put it on the news.

Why don’t we care? Maybe we do, but we can’t face it. The same way that hardly anybody ever gets prosecuted for manslaughter when they kill someone with their car or truck. The same way you can drive a car up onto the pavement in Southwold, kill someone and not even get a arrested. That happened a few summers ago. I don’t know any other crime where the defence “I didn’t do it on purpose” works so well.

Next time you see the news and marvel at the latest ‘terror threat’ or swarm of people who only have hope left, and hear how all of this is this week’s existential threat to our way of life, think about our existential way of death, and how you know the acceptable casualty rate after which something must be done. In 2013 it was 1,713. Nothing else came even vaguely close.




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