The Death Race 2016 page has experienced some updates since the end of last month. There is a link to a new interactive map of the locations of fatal crashes in the region and a link to a page explaining the definition and the boundaries of the Springfield region.
February saw 6 people die on the roads of the region, but once again, in the busiest, most populous city, with the densest maze of streets and roads, not a single life was lost and, unlike January where one homicide did occur, there has not been a single murder in the city of Springfield this month. Thus the scoreboards read:
Springfield Murders: 1
Springfield Road Deaths: 0
Regional Deaths (not Springfield): 15
Stranger Murders: 0
Stranger Vehicular Deaths: 13
As horrible as it is to contemplate any of the tragedies of the last month, two stick in my mind. The first involves a man who was killed by a school van walking home from work in a place which can only be described as totally car centered. The news reports which followed up on the story had some interviews which were wonderfully illustrative of our disregard for human beings once they shuffle off their metallic coils. In a live report, a motorist being interviewed from his car said that the location of the death was not one in which he had ever seen a pedestrian before, and that the road was not made to be walked upon. How sad I was when a former student of mine, a coworker of the deceased at Cracker Barrel, linked to the GoFundMe page for the dead man which read that he walked to and from work every day for over a decade; presumably at the same time this motorist used the same road to commute for years; but the motorist NEVER saw him. Oh, and on the day he died he was walking with a fellow employee. Another interview connected to the TV news package interviews the local chief of police who claims that the street where this manslaughter occurred is safe because the street is very wide and the sight lines are good. You tell me if this looks safe:
To drive on maybe, but not to walk. We are living, and dying, Fahrenheit 451.
The other story is a tragedy beyond measuring. A young couple in a rural area departs from home, presumably for work, in the wee hours of the morning, leaving their three adorable preschool aged children in the care of others; never to return. Somewhere, at a dip or a bend in the winding old New England road, a massive truck coming from the other direction ends up sharing the same space on the roadway and their 3 children are instant orphans. Who left their lane? Why did they leave their lane? Those are questions for the police investigation, but no answers will ever bring those parents back to their children.
Yes, a point is being made with this feature on Rational Urbanism, and the numbers make the case that we are irrational in our fears of the dangers of urban living: I will go out on a limb and say we have already seen more stranger deaths on the roadways of the region, in just two months, than Springfield sees stranger murders in 10 years. But that is only half the story. A colleague of mine took a day off this week to grieve for the death of a family member, a 16 year old family member, a 16 year old family member in Florida who died while texting and driving. If that young girl had lived in a place where teenagers didn’t need cars to hang out with friends, where the expectation wasn’t that a child would be given the responsibility of managing a thousand pound vehicle, where life can be lived without the monstrous artificial appendage of an automobile, she would most likely be alive today.
This story repeats and repeats and repeats. An excellent podcast my wife and I have listened to about coming to terms with death (with my 91 year old mother experiencing what seems like a sudden, steady decline towards the end of her life) was inspired by a young girl whose life was taken while crossing the street in Florida; on a street that was “safe and wide”, and where the sight lines were good.