In 2012 33,561 people lost their lives to car accidents. Probably three time that number were injured, some permanently. If true then 134,244 people were injured or killed in auto related accidents in 2012. It is likely that we have all been involved in a auto-accident which resulted in an injury. I have been luck. I have been in two accidents none of which resulted in an injury, but in one case that was pure luck. Since WWII more people are killed in auto accidents than in any of our wars annually.
Cars have been responsible for ruining tens of thousands of lives each year. Yet we have become so depended upon them in spite of their proven dangers, regardless of what safety features have been built in to them, that we continue to ignore the fact that they are the most dangerous things most use in their daily lives. They are like having a loaded gun in our hands with the safety left off every time we drive. A drunk driver is like having a cocked gun in our hands.
Strict standards are maintained for all other modes of motorized transportation. Yet just about anyone can drive starting at the age of 17. So if I lived to be 120 I can still drive even if I had dementia and coordination problems. There is no driving competency test requirement except for new drivers.
Most people drive their cars less than 5 miles to shop or do other tasks. Our dependence upon cars in rural America is virtually complete almost to the exclusion of other modes of transportation such as walking, biking, or public transportation.
Yet in other countries bicycles are the major mode of transportation, not only in under developed nations but also in highly developed nations such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and other norther European countries. These nations realize the negative impact of cars in terms of safety, pollution, and dependence upon oil so they have emphasized the use of biking with supporting infrastructure.
Bicycle fatalities or serious injuries not involving a car are rare. Many nations, where bicycles are the predominant form of transportation, do not even have helmet laws since most accidents do not involve a car and thus are not serious. However riding a bike in most U.S. communities is quite dangerous requiring the use of helmets and other safety equipment. Often people driving cars are oblivious of bicycle riders so there is good reason for cyclists to beware of cars.
But if we could become a nation with an emphasis upon bicycling instead of cars think of all the advantages that cycling offers: exercise for better health and weigh control; zero pollution of our environment and no green house gas emissions; far lower cost to travel within 5 miles of where we live (low cost of bicycles, even expensive ones, no insurance, almost no maintenance cost, no fuel needed, no smog test, not license fees); for transporting heavy loads cargo bikes consisting of three wheels and a large box for holding large load or even children can be used; increased safety from fatal or serious injuries; no more traffic congestion; the list goes on.
Bicycles take up far less street and road infrastructure allowing them to be made narrower and with less reinforcement and upkeep. In a non-carcentric society bicycles and walking can take care of 80% of a person’s transportation needs and public transit can take up the remaining 20%. We really don’t need cars. I no longer own a car for daily commutes. I occasionally barrow my wife’s car for long commutes. I probably drive less than 1000 miles a year now. I do a lot of walking and some biking but riding a bike in my city is a bit risky. Even walking across the street present risks which I need to be vigilant about. I really would like to bike far more but our streets are simply not safe enough to do it frequently.