On April 7th, one of my dearest friends, who lives in Texas, called to tell me that her cousin, “T,” whom I’ve known since she was in elementary school, and T’s baby daughter had been in a crash the night before. The list of injuries was shocking.
T: broken leg (fixed with surgery and several screws), bruised lung, fractured pelvis, c2 spine/neck fracture
Baby Girl: lacerated spleen, bruised lung, spine/neck c2 fracture, severed arm
After our conversation, my friend sent me photographs of T’s vehicle, which had been hit by an 18-wheeler. It looked like a crumpled aluminum can. First responders used the “Jaws of Life” to rescue them and then sent them via Life Flight to a trauma center in Austin.
Three weeks later, the baby is still in the hospital, finally breathing without a tube but still sedated. She will have to wear a full body cast for an entire year. She will live the rest of her life with only one arm. It is not yet clear what other effects she and her mother will suffer.
Last Thursday, my son’s teacher told me that her husband was in Louisiana for the funeral of their two nieces, ages four and six, who had been killed when their family’s car was hit by a drunk driver two days earlier. The surviving family members (one child and one adult) were still in the hospital with serious injuries.
These horrific, shocking incidents have brought far too close to home the devastating violence of cars. It’s not just the gore — the crushed bones, bruised organs, shredded skin, and severed limbs. It is the pervasiveness. It is the fact that everyone is at risk, almost all of the time
Most people in the United States rely on cars to get through their days. We have built our communities and our lives in ways that all but require us to drive. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to alternatives (and lifestyles that make those alternatives feasible) must still share space with cars. We use the same roads (or attempt to walk across them). We walk on narrow sidewalks — if we’re lucky, shoulders and ditches if we’re not — as they whiz by. We cross parking lots to shop or visit the doctor.
All of us live under constant threat that an inattentive, or unskilled, or negligent driver could end our lives in an instant, and there is no transportation “choice” we can make to insulate us from this danger.
This isn’t about drivers and non-drivers, good guys and bad guys, “us” and “them.” We’re all in the same (terrifying) boat.
What are we going to do about it?