The New York Times begins a report about holiday travel in today’s paper this way:
CHICAGO, Dec. 23 – Snow, ice and high winds extended from the Great Lakes to the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, tying up traffic, delaying flights and disrupting holiday travel plans for thousands of people. At least 13 people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
The article goes on to report about a 22-car pileup in Wyoming that caused nine people to be hospitalized. And it says that the governor of Indiana, Joseph E. Kernan, closed parts of three Interstate highways, and that Greyhound halted service on 12 routes. Here is more on the holiday travel calamity:
Flights involving Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and Washington were among the many that suffered delays of up to two hours. More than 200 flights were canceled on Wednesday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Chaos on the roads! Frustrating delays in the skies! Intercity bus service canceled! What about Amtrak service? No Amtrak delays mentioned in the article. No Amtrak delays reported in a Google news search. I imagine that the storm might slow trains down a bit, but I doubt there would have been reason to cancel any trains. (If anyone hears about Amtrak trains canceled or delayed yesterday, please post a comment about it.)
If this whole tragic mess isn’t enough to make lawmakers support a multi-modal transporation system, which provides choices for people when one or more modes of travel become unusable, I don’t know what is.
More importantly, 13 people died yesterday – each with a set of loved ones who are now in grief. This is just another barely perceptible increase in the number of deaths caused by our dependence on car travel, by far the most deadly form of transportation even without snow. This fact goes largely unrecognized because deaths on the road happen in smaller increments and in separate events. If at least 13 people died together in a bus, train or plane accident, or in, say, an attack in Iraq, that would have been what led the headlines. But yesterday the at least 13 deaths happened separately, they were left out of the headlines and relegated to second paragraph status. If more people are discovered to have died in accidents, or some of those injured die from their injuries, we won’t even hear about it at all. This is one reason why people often fail to fully understand the high number of deaths and injuries associated with car travel.
Moreover, the act of driving yesterday seems nothing short of hellish. As one motorist, Joe Bartless of Alexandria, Ky., commented,
“I saw a car off the road about every 200 feet,” he said. “So it was white knuckles for me.”
Why put yourself through that? If I had to travel this weekend, I would have taken Amtrak. And I would have been well rested, well fed, and calm.