Why are there no “car deaths”?

Ljubljana_car_crash_2013Why are there no figures for motor vehicle deaths? You might think that is an odd question. There are, after all, official figures for deaths in motor vehicle accidents. While that is the majority of deaths from motor vehicles, there are also suicides from carbon monoxide poisoning. There may also be suicides and murders in the figures for motor vehicle collisions, which might be hard to strip out from the majority of collision deaths which are accidental.

Well, the reason that the figures from all causes which happen to involve a car or other motor vehicle are not lumped in together is that it would be stupid. It wouldn’t make a great deal more sense than lumping together deaths which take place on a Wednesday and classifying them as “Wednesday deaths”, whatever cause they happened to have.

To see how silly this is, we only have to imagine how one would create a government policy to deal with “car deaths” in the aggregate. Obviously, something which reduced accidents would have a huge impact on the figures, because accidents are such a large proportion of the total. But even the most radical policy – eliminating cars altogether and forcing people to use mass or unpowered transit – would have no impact on the suicides or the murders. The suicides and murders start with the desire of someone to kill: either self or someone else. That desire is not going to be affected in the slightest by the availability, or otherwise, of a car. The person would simply find another way – which may be more or less effective – of carrying out the plan. 

That’s why “car deaths” are not a thing. So why are “gun deaths” a thing?

As with cars, if guns were simply not available, then accidental deaths from this source could be eliminated. Murders and suicides would be almost unaffected. Self-defense deaths might be reduced, if the victim had no alternative way of defending her or himself. That would probably increase murders, rapes, and other serious crimes along with the decline in lawful self-defense deaths. 

But there is an important ideological reason for lumping together gun deaths in a way that would not apply to any other piece of technology. Accidental deaths from guns are a serious problem, but tiny when compared to cars and smaller than swimming pools. Liberal parents hate the idea of their children playing at a house where there is a gun-owner, but seem happy to let them play where there is a swimming pool, even though it is more dangerous. 

It is only by lumping accidental deaths in with murders, suicides and self-defense that you can make guns appear more dangerous than swimming pools, and still not as dangerous as cars. 

It is easy to see how silly that is by considering that subset of murders that are drive by shootings. These involve both a gun and a motor vehicle. They are classified as “gun deaths” but not as “motor vehicle deaths”. It is obvious why they are not motor vehicle deaths. The motor vehicle was used as a matter of convenience but had no connection with the reason for the murder. If no motor vehicle had been available, the murderer would have found a different way of carrying out the murder. Exactly the same is true of the gun.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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