We should con­cen­trate on sav­ing lives in traf­fic ac­ci­dents

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - DEN­NIS WY­ATT Edi­tor

There were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States in 2015. There were 33,736 traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties in the United States in 2015. There were 33,594 gun deaths in the United States in 2015.

These are fig­ured com­piled by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol.

But they are only part of the story.

Drill down on the gun death num­bers and you will find that 11,008 were homi­cides — in­clud­ing self-de­fense deaths — while 21,386 were sui­cides. Ac­ci­den­tal deaths were 2,000.

Let me make it clear that we should do what we can to pre­vent sui­cides. That said given the move­ment in this coun­try to al­low peo­ple to com­mit sui­cide and these aren’t deaths at the hands of strangers, the num­ber we should fo­cus on is 13,008 deaths that in­cludes 11,008 gun homi­cides.

As for traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties there isn’t re­ally a break­down of how many deaths in­volved that of just the driver that was driv­ing alone and hit no other oc­cu­pied ve­hi­cle or per­son. As­sum­ing there were few sui­cides by car where no other ve­hi­cles were in­volved and a num­ber were es­sen­tially solo af­fairs in­volv­ing the dead driver in an ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing no other peo­ple, that 33,736 death toll prob­a­bly in­cludes 30,000 give or take who died in a traf­fic ac­ci­dent that was nei­ther truly solo or a sui­cide.

That means we have an al­most 3 times greater change to be killed in a traf­fic ac­ci­dent than from a gun fired by an­other. Toss in in­juries and au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dents at 4.4 mil­lion and from guns at just over 100,000 for guns.

Most gun deaths aren’t blamed on strangers while the op­po­site is true for traf­fic ac­ci­dents.

The point is not to dis­miss gun vi­o­lence or un­der­mine ef­forts for rea­son­able gun con­trol laws.

Rather it is to point out we’re hav­ing po­lit­i­cal scream­ing matches over the wrong Boogey­man.

Your chances of be­ing killed, maimed, or in­jured is much greater in Man­teca driv­ing, walk­ing, or bi­cy­cling down the street than it is by a gun.

In 2015, Man­teca Po­lice Depart­ment dealt with two homi­cides and six traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties. The vic­tims knew their as­sailants in the homi­cides that were both by gun. While there is no data eas­ily re­triev­able short of go­ing through in­di­vid­ual ac­ci­dent, re­ports as to whether a fa­tal­ity was the driver who caused the ac­ci­dent, save for solo ac­ci­dents it is ex­tremely rare when the driv­ers of both ve­hi­cles in a fa­tal­ity knew each other.

There were 77 ag­gra­vated as­saults in 2015 within the city. Most were gang-on-gang vi­o­lence. The rest were pri­mar­ily do­mes­tic. Guns, knives, and fists ac­counted for the bulk of the weapons of choice. At least 77 peo­ple were in­jured. Com­pare that to the 189 in traf­fic ac­ci­dents were one or more peo­ple were se­ri­ously in­jured enough to re­quire be­ing wheeled into an emer­gency room in Man­teca dur­ing 2015. Keep in mind these in­volves only city streets and not the 120 By­pass and High­way 99 that is within the CHP’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

Few — if any of the as­saults — could have been pre­vented with proac­tive polic­ing. None of the homi­cides could have been.

That is not the same as for traf­fic deaths and ac­ci­dents where po­lice is­su­ing ci­ta­tions are an ef­fec­tive ed­u­ca­tional tool given they hit peo­ple where it hurts in the pock­et­book.

Would hav­ing more traf­fic of­fi­cers elim­i­nate all ac­ci­dents? No. Would it help make our streets safer as far as traf­fic safety is con­cerned? Yes.

Would hav­ing more po­lice elim­i­nate all mur­ders and as­saults? No. Would it help make out streets safer as far as homi­cide and as­saults are con­cerned? No.

You could dou­ble the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers and not made an ap­pre­cia­ble dent in many felony cat­e­gories. That’s be­cause you still can’t sta­tion a po­lice of­fi­cer on ev­ery corner 24/7 or out­side ev­ery home. You can’t stop crimes of pas­sion. As for gangs and crim­i­nals, they aren’t go­ing to stop be­ing crim­i­nals or gang mem­bers. Given the penalty sys­tem now in place it is dif­fi­cult to get many of them off the streets for a long pe­riod of time with mur­der­ers be­ing the ex­cep­tion. The long-term so­lu­tion is work­ing to give kids choices, men­tor­ing, and other di­ver­sions to re­duce the flow of peo­ple into crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties and gangs.

It is clear we can do some­thing about traf­fic deaths that could have a fairly im­me­di­ate im­pact through en­force­ment yet that is not the same about gun deaths. Not say­ing we should say “oh well” with homi­cides and mass shoot­ings, but it would seem if we re­ally want to make streets safer for our fam­i­lies we’d con­cen­trate on stuff that we can change.

We all can be bet­ter driv­ers. And un­for­tu­nately it of­ten takes po­lice is­su­ing as tick­ets — or pulling us over for warn­ings – to open our col­lec­tive eyes.

At the same time, though, we de­vote an in­or­di­nate amount of time and en­ergy while strain­ing our vo­cal chords yelling at each other on how to re­duce gun vi­o­lence yet we are per­fectly fine to elim­i­nate be­hind the wheel driver’s ed­u­ca­tion in pub­lic schools.

It doesn’t make sense.

This col­umn is the opin­ion of ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor, Den­nis Wy­att, and does not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent the opin­ion of The Bul­letin or Morris News­pa­per Corp. of CA. He can be con­tacted at dwy­att@man­te­cab­ul­ or 209.249.3519.

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