Tragedy garners media attention. The masses like to rubber neck and media outlets are happy to oblige them. Unfortunately, knee jerk, irrational “solutions” come more quickly and are voiced more loudly than true causation and an understanding of real problems and statistics.
Emotion is easier than math.
Monitored over a ten year period, an average of 29 children are killed in school bus-related pedestrian accidents – struck while getting on or off a school bus. An additional six children per year are killed as school bus passengers. Source: School Bus Information Clearinghouse (sbi.elitedecision.com)
That’s an average of 35 children killed every year traveling via school bus. Statistically, school buses remain the safest mode of transportation for children as it only accounts for two percent of all children killed traveling to and from school. Each year, approximately 800 school-age children are killed in motor vehicle crashes during normal school travel hours. About 2% of these deaths occur on school buses, while 74% occur in private passenger vehicles. Approximately 22% are bicycle or pedestrian accidents. Source: Safe Routes to School National Partnership, National Statistics on School Transportation (saferoutespartnership.org)
Contrast this to the number of kids killed in to school shootings. Despite the high amount of media attention these incidents receive the number is incredibly low. Jessie Klein, author of The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools, compiled data on school shootings. The results published in her book and a Slate.com article by Chris Kirk found that since 1980 a total of 297 people have been killed in school shootings. On average, that is less than ten per year.
A child is three times more likely to be killed traveling to and from school while using the safest form of transportation available than in a school shooting.
During this same time period, the overall crime rate has continued to fall. According to the US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov), overall, firearm-related crime has plummeted since 1993. All this while firearm sales continue to increase and every state except Illinois has enacted concealed carry provisions. More guns are readily available and people are more readily able to carry them in public and government statistics show a decrease in crime.
Nevermind all that. We need to do something! Fair enough. Let’s do something that might actually work. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a Pulitzer Prize nominated author and West Point psychology professor, compares the problem of school shootings to fire drills, noting that not one kid has been killed at school due to a fire. The reason is we have a better education system in place. Fire making materials have not been banned. Instead, a better reaction to the problem was implemented. Teachers and students conduct fire drills and know what to do in the event of one. We don’t currently have an equivalent drill for teachers and students in the event of an active shooter. The real enemy is denial and giving in to emotion rather than looking at the facts.
Read more in our February 2013 issue. Back issues are available.