Around the world, accidents rank among the chief killers of mankind. What CAUSES accidents? What can be done about them?
THE present rate of automobile carnage, one of every two Americans living can expect to be killed or injured in a traffic accident during his or her lifetime! From nation to nation, statistics are equally grim wherever the automobile is extant and in many nations, the statistics are even more macabre! And not only the automobile. Around the world accidents of all sorts cause more deaths than any single illness except cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In many nations, more children from 5 to 19 die from accidents than from all other causes combined! Accidents take a greater toll in young lives than war!
Now consider this frightful fact: the 55,000 Americans who were killed in automobile accidents in 1968 were more than the total combat fatalities of the original 13 colonies in the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War combined. Or consider this: Since the invention of the automobile, more than 1,700,000 Americans have been killed in auto wrecks more than the total Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and all other wars involving the U.S.
The Saddest Words in Any Language
"I'm sorry but it was an accident." Perhaps these words are the most tragic, heartbreaking, saddest words of any language. Seven-year-old Denice Marie Sanders ran up to her father and teased: "Shoot me, Daddy." She died a few hours later. The gun her father had held was not loaded with blanks as he had thought. But Denice Marie was dead and all the tears on earth could not change that brutal fact! Lana Knowles, 5, was teasing her little brother George, called Butchie. "I shoot you," giggled Butchie, picking up one of his father's matched pair of derringers which the children sometimes played with when father was gone. Butchie pulled the trigger. Lana slumped to the floor with a bullet in her left temple. Horrible? Of course. Accidents are so needless! But every year over 100,000 die and another 50 million are injured accidentally in the United States alone! The news is constantly filled with accounts of airplane crashes, drowning, train wrecks, mine disasters, cave-ins, accidental explosions, speedway catastrophes. But most accidents never make the newspapers. Approximately one fourth of the population of the United States is sidelined by injuries each year! Leading the list of mishaps are falls, which account for about 12 million injuries annually. Then another 4 million individuals are struck by a moving object such as a stone; about 4 million are injured yearly in automobile accidents; 3.5 million are injured by bumping into an object or person. Of all injuries, about 44.9 percent or almost half generally occur around the home! The 50 million accidental injuries a year in the U.S. temporarily disable more than 10 million, and permanently impair another 400,000 persons. Accidents at work, however, annually disable more people than automobile accidents! In 1967, a total of 2,200,000 persons suffered disabling injuries while at work, compared to 1,900,000 from motor vehicle accidents. Accidents on the job also cause about ten times as many lost working days as do strikes and other work stoppages. On every work day, 55 persons are killed in industrial accidents in the U.S., 8,500 are disabled, and 27,000 hurt less seriously. The three top jobs for accidents are coal mining, construction, and agriculture. The four million men who earn their living building skyscrapers, bridges and other major projects earn the highest workmen's wages, but also have the deadliest jobs. They suffered 2,800 deaths and 240,000 severe injuries in 1966. In construction, accidents claimed 174 million man days a year, almost 30 times the time lost in strikes! Nationwide in 1968, about 114,000 Americans were killed "accidentally." These accidents cost the United States about $60 million every day, $40,000 every minute, or $700 every second! The cost of accidents totaled a whopping $22,500,000,000 including wage losses, medical fees, insurance settlements, property damage, and destruction by fire, etc. Over half this figure is attributable to injuries and property damage resulting from automobile collisions.
But why do accidents occur? What causes them? Why do they occur more frequently at certain times than at others? Are accidents simply part of life to be expected? Are they simply due to a "run of bad luck"? Is life itself like a game of chance? Around the earth, millions believe life was foreordained to be a certain way, and there is nothing they can do to change it. If they run into reverses, they blame their stars. If they become sick, or are hit by a car, or gored by a bull, they blame "the fates." Millions believe there is nothing one can do about accidents. Like a soldier in Vietnam who says, "If the bullet has your number on it, then it's all over for you. There's nothing you can do about it. Your time has come." Are accidents unavoidable? Why do some people seem to be more "accident-prone" than others?
A Leading Cause of Death!
For all ages, accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease, cancer, and stroke. In 1966, heart disease claimed 727,002 lives; cancer claimed 303,736 lives; stroke killed 204,841; and accidents killed another 113,563. However, among all persons aged 137, accidents are the NUMBER ONE cause of death! In fact, more students in college die accidentally than succeed in taking their own lives purposefully! For children aged 1-14 years, accidents claim more lives than the six leading diseases and other causes combined cancer, congenital malformations, pneumonia, heart disease, meningitis, and homicide. For youths 15-24 years of age, accidents again are the leading cause of death, causing eight times as many deaths as the next leading cause cancer! Every five minutes, somebody somewhere in the United States dies from an accident. There are thirteen such deaths every hour, or 310 every single day (on the average). Every three seconds there is an injury due to accidents. That's 20 every minute, 1,200 every hour, or 30,000 every single day. But the amazing thing is the overwhelming majority of these deaths, injuries, and the awesome expense could be AVOIDED! It is all so tragic so unnecessary!
Every two-and-one-half minutes, someone, somewhere in the world, from South Africa to Chile, or Norway to New Zealand, dies from an auto accident. Since the first automobile chugged noisily down cobblestone streets in 1889 till the present, about 70,000,000 Americans have been killed, crippled, maimed or disabled in car accidents! But the United States is not alone facing this vicious killer. In many nations around the world, automobile deaths have reached "epidemic proportions." Declared Dr. William Haddon, Jr., National Safety Director, the violence committed against the public by automobile accidents "exceeds all crimes of violence by a ratio of ten to one." "People just do not realize the magnitude of the problem," asserted the chief of highway safety in the U.S. "It is naοve to approach violence in the United States by not talking about the most common form of violence, the automobile accidents." Strong words, but true! Not long ago three Yale University professors agreed that the automobile is "public health enemy No. 1 in this country"! It pollutes the air, congests the cities, and contributes to heart disease because people hardly walk anywhere any more besides the grisly toll of automobile accidents. Said Dr. H. Richard Weinerman, professor of medicine and public health, "For the first time in human history the problem of man's survival has to do with his control of man-made hazards." He was referring particularly to the automobile and related hazards. Part of the blame, said Dr. Paul B. Sears, professor emeritus of conservation, lies with "a society which regards profit as a supreme value, under the illusion that anything that's technically possible is, therefore, ethically justified."
No. 1 "Accidental" KILLER
In June, 1968, a Harvard traffic safety specialist estimated that your chance of being seriously hurt or killed in a traffic accident within the next 15 years is one in ten. Not very good odds! Said Dr. Ross A. McFarland, the frequency of automobile accidents "has reached epidemic proportions." There is a motor vehicle death every ten minutes, six every hour, 150 every day, over 1,000 every week! There is a disabling injury resulting from a car wreck every 17 seconds, 220 an hour, or 5,200 every day! National Safety Council figures indicate that driver error is a major cause of nearly 90 percent of all accidents. In 1964, statistically, one driver out of every five was involved in an automobile accident. If present trends were to continue, indications are 100,000 would die annually on our highways by 1975. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young men between 16 and 24. Young men drivers amount to one eighth of all registered drivers but account for a third of all fatal accidents. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the young man driver sometimes uses his car as an instrument to blow off steam or to gain relief from worries about school grades, the draft, or as an outlet for other bothersome frustrations. Unconsciously, they found, he is releasing suicidal and homicidal impulses in his automobile. And there is the added tendency among many young men especially to use the automobile as a masculinity symbol. They love to show what their cars can do or what they can do with their cars in traffic. Many young men are not real men they have swapped their manhood for a machine. Instead of doing really manly deeds, they tally up a higher accident rate than the girls they consider such poor drivers. Girls don't normally use the automobile as a symbol only as transportation. They tend to recognize their driving limitations. Young males without enough manhood to rescue a child from a raging torrent or a girl from an attacker may nevertheless consider themselves invincible when hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand and the top of the car with the other. But a fool and a flimsy contraption are not an invincible combination.
The Automobile Around the World
Take a look at car carnage around the world. Judging by the number of deaths per 100 million miles driven, the accident fatality rate in Japan is almost four times the American rate! If the Japanese drove as many miles as Americans did, they would have 200,000 fatalities a year all by themselves! The fatality rate in Finland isn't much better, or in the Netherlands. Both nations have about three times the number of deaths per 100 million miles driven as do Americans. West Germany and France are neck-and-neck concerning fatalities per 100 million miles, both slightly over double the U.S. rate. And next on the dubious list of distinction comes Italy, with about double the U.S. rate of accident-deaths per 100 million miles. Everywhere automobiles have been introduced, deaths increase. In some areas, drivers play a game called "matador." The driver is the bull and the pedestrian the matador, trying to escape. In some South American countries, highways are regarded as a "field of honor." One's manhood is held in question if he allows another driver to bluff him at an intersection or to pass him on the open road. Now compare national population with death rates by auto accidents. In 1966-1967, per 100,000 population. West Germany had the most fatalities (28.4). Next came Australia (27.6), with Canada right on its heels (27.1), closely followed by the United States (26.9). Holding the distinction of having the most fatalities per 100,000 registered motor vehicles is West Germany, far out in the lead with 126. No matter where you go, however, driving isn't nearly as safe as it could and should be! All nations could improve their records with safer vehicles better roads, and stricter enforcement of traffic codes.
The "NUT" Behind the Wheel
Statistics reveal most car accidents and deaths are due to breaking laws! The more often one breaks traffic laws the greater his chances of being involved in an accident. In 1967, speeding beyond safe limits was involved in 30 percent of all fatal highway accidents; failing to yield right of way, passing a stop sign, or disregarding a signal was involved in 20 percent; driving on the wrong side of the road, 12 percent. But drunkenness is a factor in over half of all fatal highway accidents! Drunkenness causes one to break safety rules. In 1967 nearly 3 out of 5 fatally injured drivers tested in California, who were responsible for accidents, had been drinking. Drunken driving takes a yearly toll of some 25,000 lives and causes some 800,000 crashes. "Alcoholics and other problem drinkers, who constitute but a small minority of the general population, account for a very large part of the overall problem" said a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The report declared that the probability of having an accident is about 1 in 20 if the driver registers a level of alcohol in his blood of 100 milligrams per 100 milliliters a concentration which means intoxication. A concentration of 150 means drunkenness. At that point, the accident risk rises to 1 in 5! Since drinking more commonly occurs during the late afternoon, evening, and at night, this is the time to be on the lookout for drunken drivers. Also, it is wise to be extra alert during weekends, particularly on Saturdays. Drunken drivers are "the No. 1 problem on our highways," said Dr. William Haddon, Jr., Director of the National Highway Safety bureau, who has studied the problem for over ten years: Therefore, follow the old adage: If you drive, don't drink. If you drink, don't drive! In over 80 percent of all highway accidents, the driver is at fault not the car, not the road, not the weather, although they may contribute. But the driver can usually avoid their dangers by being careful. Alcohol impairs a driver's skill; so do many drugs, including pep pills or amphetamines.
TEN RULES for Safety 1. Obey the laws. 2. Be alert, vigilant, aware of potential DANGER. 3. Be safety conscious THINK safety. 4. Drive "defensively" don't take foolish chances. 5. Train your children to obey you instantly. 6. Know where your children are, what they are doing, AT ALL TIMES. 7. Train your children to be CAREFUL. 8. Avoid "temptations" don't leave poisons or dangerous objects lurking in the reach of small children. 9. Keep your HOME and automobile CLEAN and in good repair a place for everything, and everything in its place. 10. In case of accident, DON'T PANIC. Keep cool, calm, and collected. Take proper first aid measures, and call the proper authorities as necessary.
Dr. James L. Malfetti, who has spent many years researching the causes of auto accidents, declared: "In its most simple form the results come to this man drives as he lives." He added, "Evidence shows that people who adjust well to life's institutions will adjust well to the highway complex. A man who has trouble with a credit agency will have trouble in traffic. The poor driver is likely to be hostile, impulsive and in trouble with social agencies." Dr. Malfetti continued, "There's no truth to the rumor that a man's personality changes when he gets behind the wheel of a car." Interestingly, one of Dr. Malfetti's recent studies showed that smokers behind the wheel of a car are four times as likely to be involved in an accident as nonsmokers!
What CAUSES Accidents?
Accidents are not the result of bad luck. There is a cause for every effect. Every accident has a direct cause! Of course, carelessness is often involved. Ignorance is often partly responsible. But in every case, some law was broken. When a boy falls out of a tree through carelessness and breaks a leg, the law of gravity exacts its penalty. When an automobile collides with a telephone pole or another vehicle, the law of inertia exacts penalties. Often as not, man-made laws were also broken such as speeding, following too closely, etc. However, if people would be more law abiding, the terrible toll of accidents would be lowered tremendously! But "law," today, is a much disrespected word. People often despise the "law." Some call police officers "pigs" out of contempt for law and order. In such a lawless age, is it any wonder there are so many accidents? Sociologists, psychologists and scientists often teach there are no absolute truths no absolute laws. They believe everything is due to random chance. The world and life itself, they say, slowly evolved by accident! No wonder we live in an accident-prone world! But whether we realize it or not, active laws are all around us. They govern our lives. They act upon us continually. If obeyed, they protect us and keep us from harm. When broken, they break us, lead to injury, suffering, and sometimes death. In the physical realm there are laws of physics, chemistry, optics, metallurgy, refraction and reflection, heat, density, motion, gravity, expansion and contraction, electricity, magnetism, and so forth. If scientists ignored and rejected the laws of aerodynamics, for instance, airplanes would never fly. They'd never get off the ground! Unless scientists worked with laws, they would never have invented the telegraph, telephone, electric light bulb or the radio. Laws are basic to life! When obeyed, they are the most wonderful protectors and bring great rewards. When disobeyed, they result in frightful curses.
Don't Live Life ACCIDENTALLY!
Don't let life just "happen" to you. Don't live "accidentally." Don't live daringly. Don't take risks. It is foolish to live life "accidentally," getting nowhere fast, wasting precious minutes, hours, days and years stumbling from one job to another, falling into one accident after another, trusting to blind luck. If you live accidentally, without planning, foresight, preparation, or goals in life, then someday you will wake up with rueful regret. But if you determine to know what life is all about, the laws of success, what the true goals of life should be, and strive to avoid accidents by proper caution and preparation; then you will be eternally glad you did! The final choice by no accident is yours! Read our free, illustrated booklet The Seven Laws Of Success. It will explain that there are laws governing life and success. True success and happiness are not the results of accidents! There is a cause for every effect. In a forthcoming issue, watch for another article about the slaughter on the highways, automobile safety, showing not only the causes of highway accidents but positive steps for safe driving, prepared in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol. Don't miss it.