NYT: Vehicle Crashes Surging...But No Blaming The Racial Wreckening
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Earlier: "Racial Profiling" And Bad Black Drivers: Blacks Speed Twice As Much As Whites And "Speed At Reckless Levels Even More"

David Leonhardt, the head of the New York Times’ Upshot data journalism section, has been conducting a worthy campaign to get NYT subscribers to realize that Fighting COVID Forever comes with some unfortunate trade-offs, especially in this mild omicron era. Here he calls attention to how traffic deaths are way up since the first half of 2020, which he attributes to anger and frustration caused by COVID responses, which no doubt do play some role.

But, of course, he has to ignore a major reason why Americans have been driving so much worse: that cops have cut way back on traffic stops, in part because of the social distancing, in part because of the racial reckoning. While it takes a lot of bravery to mention in the NYT that COVID restrictions aren’t a free lunch but come with a significant trade-off, it may well be career suicide to mention that Black Lives Matter comes with a major trade-off due to cops retreating to the donut shop in terms of black (and other) lives ended violently by shootings and car crashes. Dave is brave, but he’s not crazy.

From the New York Times’ head of data journalism:

Vehicle Crashes, Surging

Traffic deaths are surging during the pandemic.

By David Leonhardt
Feb. 15, 2022

The United States is enduring its most severe increase in traffic deaths since the 1940s. …

But then came the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crashes — and deaths — began surging in the summer of 2020

Whereas the COVID pandemic was in the news in the early spring of 2020. And indeed, road deaths per mile driven surged during the March 2020 lockdown as streets emptied and cops practiced Social Distancing so those few on the roads drove like bats out of hell.

, surprising traffic experts who had hoped that relatively empty roads would cause accidents to decline. Instead, an increase in aggressive driving more than made up for the decline in driving. And crashes continued to increase when people returned to the roads, later in the pandemic.

When The Experts announced in late May 2020 that your being angry about George Floyd protected you from the virus and entitled you to ignore all the paranoia they’d been spreading up through May 24, 2020, traffic increased.

But people kept driving like bats out of hell, assuming (correctly) that their chances of being pulled over by the cops were much diminished during the Racial Reckoning and the Social Distancing.

Per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5 percent from the summer of 2019 to last summer, according to a Times analysis of federal data. It is the largest two-year increase since just after World War II.

This grim trend is another way that two years of isolation and disruption have damaged life, as this story — by my colleague Simon Romero, who’s a national correspondent — explains. People are frustrated and angry, and those feelings are fueling increases in violent crime, customer abuse of workers, student misbehavior in school and vehicle crashes.

Also, the New York Times–led media keep telling blacks that they ought to be angry, which led to blacks dying in homicides 36% more in 2020 than in 2019, while Asian deaths in homicides were up only 1%.

Art Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said that the emotions partly reflected “two years of having to stop ourselves from doing things that we’d like to do.” He added: “When you get angry in the car, it generates energy — and how do you dissipate that energy? Well, one way is to put your foot down a little bit more on the accelerator.”

Of course, the prestige press’ nonstop goading of black anger against the cops since May 25, 2020 has nothing, nothing to do with all the extra blacks suddenly getting themselves killed in car crashes and shootings.

Rising drug abuse during the pandemic seems to play an important role, as well. The U.S. Department of Transportation has reported that “the proportion of drivers testing positive for opioids nearly doubled after mid-March 2020, compared to the previous 6 months, while marijuana prevalence increased by about 50 percent.” (Mid-March 2020 is when major Covid mitigations began.)

Other factors besides the pandemic also affect traffic deaths, of course. But those other factors tend to change slowly — and often counteract each other.

For example, while the New York Times and Washington Post, and almost all media outlets that look to them for their lead, have been speaking with one voice since May 25, 2020 about how blacks must get ANGRIER, a blogger named Steve Sailer has been counteracting their colossal influence by posting graphs from obscure government data dumps showing that their “racial reckoning” has been a violent disaster for blacks, getting blacks shot and mangled in hugely greater numbers as if the celebrated Black Lives Matter movement was a colossal historical fiasco.

Improving technology and safety features reduce traffic deaths, while the growing size of vehicles and the rise of distracted driving lead to more deaths. The only plausible explanation for most of the recent surge is the pandemic.

That and the giant success of the Black Lives Matter movement at encouraging cops to retreat to the donut shop, but we’re not supposed to mention any empirical downsides to BLM.

Rising inequality
Vehicle crashes might seem like an equal-opportunity public health problem, spanning racial and economic groups. Americans use the same highways, after all, and everybody is vulnerable to serious accidents. But they are not equally vulnerable.

Traffic fatalities are much more common in low-income neighborhoods and among Native and Black Americans, government data shows. Fatalities are less common among Asian Americans. (The evidence about Latinos is mixed.) There are multiple reasons, including socioeconomic differences in vehicle quality, road conditions, substance abuse and availability of crosswalks.

But it can’t have anything to do with racial differences in average driving behavior. It just can’t.

These patterns mean that the rise in vehicle crashes over the past two years has widened racial and class disparities in health. In 2020, overall U.S. traffic deaths rose 7.2 percent. Among Black Americans, the increase was 23 percent.

With almost all the increase in black deaths coming after George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. Here’s a graph I published in June 2021:

In the final seven months of 2020, following George Floyd’s death, blacks got themselves killed on the roads 36% more than in the same months of 2019. Everybody else was up 9% during the “racial reckoning” over 2019.

One factor: Essential workers, who could not stay home and work remotely, are disproportionately Black, Destiny Thomas, an urban planner, told ABC News.

Another factor: Pedestrians are disproportionately Black, Norman Garrick of the University of Connecticut noted. “This is not by choice,” Garrick told NBC News. “In many cases, Black folks cannot afford motor vehicles.” As Simon’s story notes, recent increases in pedestrian deaths have been especially sharp.

Not in 2020.

The increasing inequality of traffic deaths is also part of a larger Covid pattern in the U.S.: Much of the burden from the pandemic’s disruptions has fallen on historically disadvantaged groups. (Deaths from Covid itself have also been somewhat higher among people of color.)

Learning losses have been largest for Black and Latino children, as well as children who attend high-poverty schools. Drug overdoses have soared, and they are heavily concentrated among working-class and poor Americans.

As I’ve written before, there are few easy answers on Covid. Continuing the behavior restrictions and disruptions of the past two years does have potential benefits: It can reduce the spread of the virus. But those same restrictions and disruptions have large downsides.

Many workplaces remain closed. Schools aren’t operating close to normally (as my colleague Erica Green has described). Millions of adults and children must wear masks all day long. These changes have created widespread frustration and anxiety — and the burdens of them do not fall equally across society.

Dr. David Spiegel, who runs Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, has a clarifying way of describing the problem. People are coping with what he calls “social disengagement” — a lack of contact with other people that in normal times provides pleasure, support and comfort. Instead, Spiegel said, “There’s the feeling that the rules are suspended and all bets are off.”

As I said, this is well-intended. COVID fanatics need to realize that omicron has vastly reduced the benefits of the cruelty they impose.

But, practically nobody who reads this will realize “There’s the feeling that the rules are suspended and all bets are off” is also a major explanation for why this second Black Lives Matter era, with its radical decline in policing of blacks, has led to so much self-inflicted black carnage.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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