It's far more likely you'll be killed or injured in a traffic accident by a driver with a cellphone than by a jihadist terrorist — but Americans fear terrorists far more than their next-door neighbor.
Maybe it's because the method of dying at the hands of a terrorist is thought to be more horrific — such as being beheaded, or falling out of the sky from 32,000 feet, or by being systematically shot dead by a deranged individual in a movie theater, shopping mall, hotel, restaurant or concert hall.
But by the numbers, cellphones are far more deadly than Ak-47s or suicide bombs, because texting while driving has killed many more people than all the school shootings we've had in the U.S. — which are just as horrific as any jihadist terrorist attack. Those people killed and maimed at the World Trade Center, in the Oklahoma City bombing, or at the Boston Marathon were no less killed or maimed than those in traffic accidents. We just think of them as less horrific because traffic "accidents" aren't intentional — and people don't die in large numbers during one instance.
That's most likely why Americans are so afraid of ISIS, jihadists and terrorism — more so than they are of the many unnamed serial killers that currently prey upon us today (like BTK once did). The FBI estimates that there are between twenty-five and fifty serial killers operating throughout the U.S. at any given time. If there are fifty, then each one is responsible for an average of three murders per year.
But cellphones still kill and maim far many more Americans every year.
According to the National Safety Council, there were 35,400 traffic fatalities in the U.S. last year. A survey released by AT&T in May showed that roughly 70 percent of respondents use their smartphones while driving. Texting was most common, with 61 percent saying they’ve read, sent or replied to texts while driving — but respondents also indicated they use email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram while driving — and even conduct video chats, shoot videos and snap selfies behind the wheel.
The NSC estimates that texting while driving raises the likelihood of a crash by eight times, and that crashes involving texting or talking on a cellphone (hands-free or handheld) accounted for 27 percent of all accidents. Shouldn't these people also be classified as "domestic terrorists" for their wanton disregard of life by gambling on yours or someone else's life with such reckless behavior? After all, the end result can be no less deadly than a car bomb.
By contrast, the odds of being killed by a jihadist terrorist are probably a million times less likely than by someone driving and texting — like walking outside your front door and being struck on the head by a piece of falling space debris (the odds being, about 1 in a trillion). In many cases I'd be more afraid of the Tea Party than I would of ISIS (they would dismantle Social Security, shut down the government and send young men to die in Syria.)
"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
But Americans are afraid ... they're very afraid. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll (which finds a majority believe we're at war with radical Islam) shows 83 percent of registered voters say they believe a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in large casualties is likely in the near future, rising from 73 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month. And forty percent say a major attack in the United States is “very likely”.
The media drives fear for ratings, and politicians drive fear to garner the public's support for their policy agendas — such as bombing Syria or sending troops into Iraq again (And the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle use fear-mongering to get people to vote against their own best interests.)
But security data from New America shows that over the last 10 years there were 74 lives lost to both jihadist and non-jihadist violence (foreign and domestic terrorists) on U.S. soil. You calculate the odds. 129 people were initially killed in the Paris attack.
By contrast, if ISIS killed 129 people in the U.S., what would the odds be that it would be YOU? So should YOU be very afraid? After all, isn't that what the terrorists are hoping to accomplish — fear? Jihadists terrorists certainly can't hope to win in a war of attrition. NPR reports that last year in the U.S. there were almost 4 million births.
But Americans do fear. I would only be afraid if ISIS had a nuclear bomb (and maybe Iran might give them one, in which case, the whole world should be afraid).
According to the CDC, there is an average of 7,000 deaths in the U.S. every day — mostly health related, followed by accidents (unintentional injuries: 130,557 annually) and intentional self-harm (suicide: 41,149 annually).
By contrast, according to data from the FBI there were a total of 13,472 homicides in the U.S. last year (murder and non-negligent manslaughter). Last year 2,600,000 million Americans had died — but of those, only 5 were attributed to jihadist attacks — but 83% of registered voters fear a major terrorist attack.
Those who get their name and picture in the media (school shooters, serial killers, etc.) love it that they get so much attention. When the media reports 24/7 on terrorist attacks, they play into the hands of groups like ISIS (who also love the media attention) and uses these reports in their propaganda and recruiting videos — and the media (such as CNN's Fareed Zakaria) has even acknowledged this.
Americans should stop being so scared (be concerned, but not frozen in fear). I'd be more afraid of those a-holes that text and drive. Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (That's why I fear drinking and driving — I fear that someone texting will run into me, and then I'd get blamed for the accident.)
The NHTSA reports that texting while driving is currently responsible for approximately 1.6 million accidents every year – about 25% of all driving accidents. So the the odds are, you'll get killed by a neighbor with a cellphone, more so than you will be killed by an ISIS terrorist with a suicide bomb or an AK-47 machine gun.
So FDR was right: The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.