Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

In the safety of my car

September 9, 2009

1022488_heavy_trafficLast night, burning down I-495 in heavy traffic with my entire family in the car, I wondered if we’d all soon be dead. It would take only one aggressive D.C. driver weaving for a moment at 70 miles an hour, and we could all have been history.

“What if,” I thought to myself, “We could have taken a train to the beach instead. How much nicer that would have been. And safer.”

Fast forward 10 hours: Morning commute on the Red Line heading toward downtown Washington. My train car is full, a common scene since that horrible subway collision in June near my home station that claimed nine lives. Repairs to the subway system have left us with delays and overfilled trains ever since.

But I’ve managed to get a seat (after confirming that no elderly or pregnant person is in sight) and settle in. I’m reading the news on my phone when I hear commotion farther down the car. Somebody is yelling and cursing and creating a scene.

And now this person is elbowing and pushing his way through the packed car while barking in a threatening voice: “Where are my enemies, my enemies. I need to know where my enemies are. Are you my enemy? Where is my enemy?”

Nobody is saying anything but everybody’s thinking the same thing. What if he has a gun or a knife and decides to take out an enemy or two? We’d be defenseless.

The train stands still as the conductor tries to get the attention of security. Meanwhile, the man paces back and forth, visibly upset and rambling on about his enemies.

I think about the privacy and safety afforded those who right now move through traffic in their own cars58870_hanging_on__2 with all doors locked from the inside. Riding public transportation, there’s no such thing as privacy or private space and – when it comes down to it – very little safety.

Who needs this? A lunatic with who-knows-what in his pocket making hundreds of hardworking office workers, nurses and federal employees feel vulnerable – and late for work. I think of the many Americans who value and enjoy their private space in their private car and who – if they were on my train right now – would feel mighty snug about their transportation choices in life.

But guess what? Security did show up and removed the bad guy. And I was only 10 minutes later for work than expected, after exchanging smiles with the woman who sat next to me the whole trip.

As far as survival goes, one only needs to consult the
latest data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to know that your odds of living increase greatly when you ride a subway train through run-down innercity neighborhoods, compared with braving the expressway that circles around the city.

Of the 43,032 Americans who died in transportation accidents in 2007, 41,059 – 95 percent – died in highway accidents. Fewer than 2 percent, 845 people, died in train-related accidents.