Around the beginning of summer each year, the cries ring out about the number of homicides that have taken place in Kansas City. The amount of lives lost to bullets and poor conflict resolution is truly appalling. Residents, activists and others call for something to be done to stop the violence, and rightfully so.
But there is no outrage for the other lives lost just as senselessly in traffic crashes. There are no large, public vigils and few cries for change.
As of today, Kansas City has had 48 homicides in 2011. This is very in line with the previous years, (50 at this point in 2010, 54 in 2009 and 47 in 2008). But traffic deaths are up 30 percent over last year. Thirty-five people (police are working a possible fatal hit-and-run crash right now, which could bring the total up to 36) have been killed in crashes so far this year compared to 27 at this time in 2010. That's a 30 percent increase. Unlike homicides over the past several years, which have gone up and down, traffic fatalities have continued a steady upward climb from a total of 58 in 2006 to 68 in 2010.
Last year, 63 percent of all fatal crashes in Kansas City involved a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If only this statistic inspired the outrage and passion for change that the homicide statistic does. The loss of lives to crashes involving an impaired driver are totally preventable. We do all we can to prevent this through efforts like DUI saturation enforcement and DUI checkpoints, but we cannot possibly stop everyone who decides to get behind the wheel after imbibing.
The acronym for Mothers Against Drunk Driving - MADD - could not be more appropriate. We should be mad. We should be very upset that some think it's OK to operate a large machine capable of killing others when they're in no state to do so. We should be outraged at those who strike a pedestrian or other car and then flee the scene of the crash. We should make a stand against the reckless drivers who endanger so many people on our roadways. I hope people of Kansas City will become just as furious about the lives lost to crashes as the lives lost to bullets.
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