Be Less Afraid: You Are More Likely to Die in a Car Accident than from Terrorism (Sorry, Research Supports It)

“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
Noam Chomsky

I want to preface this post by explaining that I believe all bombings, shootings, terrorist attacks and hate crimes are extremely important for us to mourn for, examine, and ultimately use to change legislation that will make the world a safer place. However, sitting behind our computer screens instead of going out in fear of what may happen in public places is not necessary. Well, at least not when you take a careful look at the statistics and research not provided from hyped up articles from CNN, Huffington Post, Fox News, etc. because, after all, they are trying to use shock value to get more readers.

Trust me, I’ve felt the anxiety and the sadness over the attacks in Paris the same way I felt the bombing in Boston or the shooting in Charleston. And, yes, I am very aware of the fact that I do not pay attention as much to bombings and shootings in Beirut or Syria. It’s not fair or even humane of me, but I think it just hits closer to home when you can identify with a country or state that is very similar to your own. Again, it’s not ideal, but it’s just kind of the truth. Call us privileged – we are! – but it’s just hard to imagine what life is like for people in those countries. It is sad, though, because it really comes down to chance or fate that we were born in this country. We didn’t work hard to get here. We aren’t here because we are better people.

Okay, I’m getting off track, I’m sorry.

I’ve heard many people speak about how they are afraid to go to the movies, the mall, a sporting event, a big city, you name it… and when I say “people,” I also mean myself. No lie, when I went to see Dark Knight Rises after the movie theater shooting in Colorado, I cried and missed most of the movie because I watched the exit sign instead of the actual movie.

But, do we need to be so afraid? I would argue that, yes, we should be a little fearful, but no, we do not need to be so afraid. And because I don’t think you should just take my silly little opinion as a rule for your life, I did some research to support my opinion.

I’m going to start with some quick stats for those of you who like to skim:

  • Population of Paris as of Jan. 1, 2014: 2,241,346 people
  • Number of people killed in recent terrorist attacks: At least 129 (As of this article published 11/19)
    • Translation: A very small portion of the population
  • Population of Boston: 645,966 (United States Census Bureau, 2013)
  • Number of people killed in Boston Marathon Bombing: 3
    • Translation: A very small portion of the population
  • Population of Charleston: 127,999 (United States Census Bureau, 2013)
  • Number of people killed in July 17th Shooting: 9
    • Translation: A very small portion of the population
  • Around 32,727 people were killed by terrorists worldwide in 2014.
  • Approximately 1.24 million deaths occurred on the world’s roads in 2010 

Now, let me break this down for you. I do this not to be heartless, I am sad for these people who died in these brutal attacks as well. But, every day most of us wake up and drive to work. We do not create Facebook statuses about how scared we are to get in our car and drive to work. We hardly think about it, mainly we all accept that we may get in a crash because, well, that is just life. But we are all terrified of terrorists (pay attention to the name TERRORIST; this is the point, after all). But based on the stats above, we are 38 times more likely to die in a car accident than a terrorist attack. (Roughly, I am NOT a mathematician, I am a writer. Also, feel free to correct me if my math is wrong.)

Also, in my opinion, it would make sense that some legislators may want you to be afraid. I am not a conspiracy theorist (uh, for the most part), but a basic psychology class would tell you that if they have a war agenda, they would like to play on your fear to get themselves there.

The truth is, ISIS is a threat. A huge threat to the freedom we have thrived on for centuries, and it needs to be examined under a microscope. However, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions and pass laws. There is a danger in this.

For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, they were in the midst of an education reform. Regardless of whether you agree with privatization of our education system or err more to the side of public school systems, this particular reform benefitted from the fear and turmoil caused by the hurricane. In Noami Klein’s The Shock Doctrine she examines the change in education after the hurricane:

“Friedman’s radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans’ existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subsidized by the state. It was crucial, Friedman wrote, that this fundamental change not be a stopgap but rather “a permanent reform.”

In other words, instead of rebuilding public schools, they opened private schools and gave families vouchers. Which, may seem okay, but how long would those vouchers exist? My guess is the private schools would be around long after the vouchers ran out. Not everyone in New Orleans can afford a private school education.

I say (er, write) all of this for two reasons:

  1. So people will stop being afraid to enjoy their lives in fear of ISIS
  2. We can pass legislation based on facts and logic, rather than emotions and fear (pssst- refugees).

Thanks for listening. I am open to hearing some other opinions as well.


Noami Klein’s The Shock Doctrine