While this is rarely mentioned in the media or given the attention it deserves, automobiles are at the heart of an ongoing, massive, public health crisis. Every year throughout the world, more than 1.2 million people die in automobile crashes – approximately 3,200 a day. In the United States alone, the amount of automobile crash fatalities number more than 32,000 a year. But this is not even the half of it – in addition to deaths from automobile crashes, an additional 53,000 people in the US die every year from illnesses caused by automobile pollution. As a consequence, automobiles are the single greatest contributor to the more than 200,000 early deaths per year attributable to air pollution in the United States.
Yet the public health crisis of automobiles in the United States goes beyond the more than 85,000 deaths per year attributable car crashes and pollution. Indeed, several studies show that diabetes and obesity rates range from 33-50% higher where neighborhoods are less walkable. With diabetes ranking in the top ten causes of death in the United States and physical inactivity listed as the fourth-leading risk factor for global mortality by the World Health Organization, this aspect of the automobile health crises should not be underestimated, either. Overall, in the 100 years since the US has adopted the automobile, the average distance walked daily by adults has dropped from three miles a day to less than a quarter mile – a drastic change which means that most adults now fail to meet the minimum recommended levels of physical activity.