If you have a driver’s license, you might be a terrorist

April 14, 2008 | By | 5 Replies More

Most of you probably already know that more than 35,000 people are killed in the U.S. *every year* (more than ten times the number killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack) by drivers who are impaired by alcohol. But you might not know that, since the 9/11 attack, drivers who run red lights at intersections have killed more people than were killed in the 9/11 attack. For example, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 800 people were killed in 2005 alone by red light runners. That makes red light runners a greater public safety threat than global terrorism.

Now, be honest: in the 6+ years since the 9/11 attack, have you ever run a red light at an intersection? If so, then maybe you should consider yourself a serious threat to national security, because, face it, you and your kind are a greater threat than global terrorism, at least according to the number of people you kill. And from my (admittedly limited) observations, most drivers in America seem to have, at least once, run a red light. So, if you have a driver’s license, please consider this your wake-up call: you might be a terrorist.

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About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Killing people doesn't make you a terrorist. Look at the tobacco industry, for example. Terrorism is killing or injuring unexpectedly. Those Saudis who hijacked planes in 2001 not only killed over 3,000 people unexpectedly, quickly and cheaply, but they also decimated the air travel industry for foreseeable decades, and (briefly) crashed the stock market.

    The 9/11 terrorists launched a culture of anger and distrust in a nation that had been relatively peaceful and complacent before then. They enabled an administration to pursue a war that otherwise would not have gotten off the ground, creating breeding grounds for escalating resentment against our nation for many generations to come.

    Terror is a bomb in a coffeehouse, on a train, at a Federal Building. A driver on the sidewalk is simply fate.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    The best definition of terrorism I have heard is the "taking of innocents for political purposes." I respectfully disagree that "terrorism is killing or injuring unexpectedly." For more on the issue see:

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2006/11/09/real-

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    "Terrorism is killing or injuring unexpectedly."

    I would say the difference between terrorism and the other killing Dan mentions is intentionality, not unexpectedness. Getting hit by a red light runner would be just as unexpected as getting injured by a suicide terrorist, but the former would probably not be done for the purpose of killing.

    However, my point was to illustrate the vast difference between the effort the Bush Administration has made to "fight terrorism" and the effort being made to fight all the other things that kill people in the U.S. Indeed, except for a relatively few places where terrorism is a major problem, a person's odds of being killed by a motorist are vastly greater than their odds of being killed by a terrorist attack, yet the latter gets everyone's attention and captures everyone's fear.

    We find the same hysterical fear in many people who fly on airplanes. Statistically, a person is far more likely to die in a car crash on their way to an airport than to die in a plane crash of a modern jet aircraft, yet more people express fear of the latter than of the former. The Bush Administration exploited such hysterical fear by inflating the threat posed by the 9/11 attack, fostering public fear for the specific purpose of enhancing their personal power. Hitler did the same thing in Germany in the 1930s — fostering fear of Jewish economic power for the specific purpose of enhance his personal power. Someday, the public will recognize such fear-mongering for what it is — a naked power grab — but human society is clearly a long way from having such insight.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Cars running red lights are everyday occurrences. Perhaps unexpected by the direct victims, but not in a bigger sense. It doesn't affect bystanders sense of equilibrium.

    As for Tim's correction, I could further add that the taking of life is not in itself necessary for an act of terrorism. All that it has to accomplish is to instigate fear. A credible and indefensible threat.

  5. Vicki Baker says:

    A culture of driving that considers running a red light or going 10 miles over the speed limit on residential/commercial streets "no big deal" does instill fear. While the fear is insidious rather than a sudden shock, it does affect people's behavior. How many times have you heard people say that "it's not safe" to walk or bicycle?

    I assure you that every time I hear of a pedestrian or cyclist fatality in my town, it affects my equilibrium.

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