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A picture I took off the highway in northern Arizona next to Dead River:

The age of the automobile has taken nearly three times as many American lives as has all the wars of this nation since 1899. Nearly 4 people died by vehicle every hour of everyday in just the year 2011 for a total of 32,310. That number excludes those countless victims who survived, impaired with injuries. Now if we add in the number of humans sacrificed in oil wars over the years for the gas tanks of the West’s automobiles, then we would have to add millions more to the list of dead. The number of car crash fatalities since 9-11 has been calculated by the site death-by-car whose findings are that Osama bin Laden doesn’t hold a candle to the carnage on our roads:

From 1/1/2002 through 12/31/2011, National Highway Traffic Safety [sic] Administration statistics show that 392,621 people were killed by motor vehicle collisions in the United States. So, that’s about 100 9/11s. (And it does not count those who died from automotive air pollution and physical deconditioning.)

Recently while driving on the northern outskirts of Lake Havasu City, something odd with a car driving just ahead of me grabbed my attention. When I caught up to the tracks of the preceding car, I realized that what had appeared to be a brown paper bag tumbling under the car’s wheels was actually a desert rabbit. As I passed I could see his back legs had been crushed and he was dragging himself off the road with his front legs. I imagine the number of animals becoming roadkill during the last 113 years is unfathomable, but a few organizations have taken a stab at it:

Driving Animals to Their Graves – Roadkill Takes One Million 

…During the late 1950s, in a roadside version of the Audubon’s Christmas bird counts, the Humane Society of the United States conducted some Fourth of July body counts. During the 1970s, again groping for numbers, the Humane Society compiled data from isolated scientific studies of single roads or single species. Its secondary sources yielded the same national death toll as its field studies: one million animals a day.

Two regional surveys during 1993 and 1994 offer updated species death counts. Called “Dr. Splatt” and coordinated by the preppy Pinkerton Academy, the ongoing project involves mostly pupils in grades six to nine from 40 schools throughout the Northeast U.S. Concerned readers of the monthly Animal People also participate. Reliable death data, however, still remains elusive…

In his essay ‘An American Tragedy the Candidates Need to Address‘, Carl M. Cannon describes the first human victim of what would become America’s die-hard car culture:

…The first victim was a New York City real estate agent with the appropriately ominous name of Henry H. Bliss. On Sept. 13, 1899, Mr. Bliss alighted from a New York City trolley car, then turned and offered his hand to assist a companion, identified in news reports only as “Miss Lee.”

In that instant, a speeding taxi cab hit the man and ran over him, crushing his chest and skull. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where doctors said it was hopeless. Henry Bliss died the next day, the first known automobile fatality in U.S. history. Millions of his countrymen would follow him to the grave.

In the ensuing 113 years, vehicular traffic on the highways and byways of this country has taken a toll in human suffering that can be accurately described as a holocaust. The total number of dead from that September day in 1899 to this October day in 2012 is approximately 3,573,384.

For the first half of 2012, traffic fatalities in the U.S. have ticked back up!:

Traffic deaths in the U.S. jumped 9% in the first half of 2012, making it the biggest half-year jump since 1985.

More than 16,000 people have died on the roads so far this year, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This news is very disturbing,” Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement, according to CNN. “We have worked decades to reduce fatalities in America… but this is a serious shot across the bow, a warning that as we drive more, our roads may not be as safe as we thought they were, CNN reports…

Now China has bought into the American car culture, with predictable gruesome results:

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people in China under the age of 45, according to public health experts…

…China has nearly 70,000 police-confirmed traffic deaths a year, twice the figure for the United States. The actual discrepancy may be even greater. Chinese and Western traffic safety experts say that while the United States figures are extremely reliable and take into account virtually every death, only a small fraction of all traffic deaths in China show up in official figures because of widespread underreporting by the local police.

A comparison of government and industry data shows that the annual frequency of police-reported traffic deaths per million registered vehicles in China appears to be roughly six times as high as in the United States. And if the chronic underreporting by the police of China’s traffic deaths is factored in, the true annual rate of traffic deaths per million registered vehicles appears to be nearly 20 times as high.

A joint study last year by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and Central South University in Changsha, China, of traffic deaths throughout China in 2007 found that nearly three times as many traffic deaths showed up in the Health Ministry’s death registration data than had been reported by the police…

If the above reasons don’t give you a clue, our highly individualistic mode of transport has another Achilles’ heel, among others, which gives real meaning to the term Carmageddon:

…Oil, the source of the car’s pervasiveness, is a rich soup of carbon-based compounds used in almost everything we see and use around us: paraffin, artificial fertilizers, all types of plastics, endless industrial chemicals, asphalt, pesticides, tires, medicine etc. Burning a lot of it on the road is a certain way to make these goods costly or hard to produce. However, while we could survive without asphalt, the same cannot be said about food. In 1940, it took one calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce 2.4 calories of energy in the form of food. 1974 was a turning point: that year, the ratio was 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy for 1 calorie of food. Today, huge amounts of energy and artificial fertilizers are used to work the land, irrigate and package food, transport it over thousands of kilometres to its target markets, refrigerate it etc. All this contributes to a ratio of 10 calories of fossil fuels for every calorie we get from the food itself. In terms of energy, we are eating oil and as it seems, there is not much of it left. As we hail the birth of the 7 billionth person alive today, we are looking in the face of a large scale humanitarian disaster in the decades to follow and the last thing we should be doing is burning up a key food production resource to get to the theatre on a Saturday night…

With India and China adopting America’s asphalt-laden, roadkill-smeared car culture…

…the day of Carmageddon reckoning is fast approaching.