In my last post, I took a look at the idea that gun fatalities were set to surpass traffic fatalities as a cause of death in the US. In the comments, SJ pointed out that the word “surpass” was not appropriately use. The primary driver of this convergence was really the decrease in traffic fatalities, so it would have been better phrased as “traffic fatalities set to drop below firearm deaths”. The article I originally cited had this to say about the drop:
The national gun-death rate would not be approaching that of motor vehicles if it weren’t for the fact that the latter has dropped fairly drastically in the past half decade or so thanks to an increased effort to make the nation’s roads and vehicles safer. Gun-rights advocates will point to the relatively subtle rise of the gun-death’s purple line to argue that we don’t need to pass more gun restrictions. Gun-control advocates will point to the more severe drop of the yellow line to make the case for what might happen if we were to.
It got me curious though….was that drop really do to some new law or set of regulations? I’ve been a licensed driver for over a decade now, and I couldn’t recall any specific big changes in the past few years that change how I drive. Let’s take a look at that chart again:
- Be cautious in assuming that a sudden, large drop in fatalities is in response to interventions related to vehicle design. It takes about 20 years to turn over the fleet.
- Don’t expect most regulatory actions aimed at drivers to produce a sudden, huge drop in fatalities because such actions usually target only a portion of drivers (such as improvements in graduated driver licensing targeting young drivers only).
- Realize that any sudden, large reduction in fatalities is likely only an unintended byproduct of factors that influence the entire transportation system, such as a rapid change in the economy.
- Be aware that most rapid, underlying changes are transient, and therefore, their effects are mostly transient, too.