I tell ya Jim, ten people just died in this accident, but what's really scary are those gosh-darned video games! Think of the children!
This is only vaguely video-game related, but this has been bothering me lately, and my next Tomb Raider/Parasite Eve/Retro Limbo Game X essay isn't finished yet, so what the hell. It is long and ranty, so be forewarned.
I live on Long Island, one of the most congested areas in the United States as far as traffic is concerned. One of our main drags, Jericho Turnpike, has one of the highest total accidents per year of any road in the WORLD. It should be needless to say that being hurt or killed in a car accident is a much, much more likely scenario for me and my neighbors than death by gun crime, terrorism, aspartame in Diet Coke, or, *gasp* videogames. However, it appears that I am one of the three people in the area who is aware of this tidbit of incredibly obvious wisdom, the other two being my Dad and my brother. My Mom is a piece of work, but that's neither here nor there.
The other day I was driving home on Jericho Turnpike, in the snow. I was in the left turn lane; there was a green light. Now my policy is not to pull into the intersection until I see an opening, because getting stuck in the middle of an intersection on a crowded road is pretty much my personal hell. Furthermore, since conditions were not great-- I'd had to pump my breaks a few times to stop on the drive so far-- I wasn't going to try to squeeze into a small gap in oncoming traffic. Since it was good ole' Jericho Turnpike, there was a metric ton of cars and no large breaks in traffic to speak of, so I decided to wait the entire minute it would take to get a green arrow instead of stupidly charging ahead and risking an accident. I like those green arrows.
Apparently, some people are confused about what a green light in the left turn lane means. Instead of the actual meaning, which is "you may go if you see a reasonable opportunity", they think it means "you MUST go if there is any chance that you can squeeze by without causing a multi-car pileup." An SUV behind me was pretty much sitting on the horn the entire time, the driver presumably thinking "Hey, there's a chance in hell you may be able to get through here, why aren't you moving up? Sure, we could get into an accident, but I'm in an SUV and I'll probably survive anyway, it's just your fault for being lame and driving a fuel-efficient car, so you can't drive like your brain is made out of testicles."
I'm not usually an overly-cautious driver, but let's look at the odds here: It was snowing. The roads were icy. It was rush hour. We were on what is statistically one of the most dangerous roads you could possibly have the privilege of driving on. The chances of injury and/or death for everyone involved in this kind of scenario is probably greater than that of any other scenario most people will ever experience outside of the armed forces, and no one except me seems to care.
This kind of thing has happened to me before; it was especially blatant this time because of the weather, but it's not at all uncommon for me to get honked just for not driving like a moron.
Politically Popular "Risk", ACTUAL RISK: Different!
We're constantly being assailed with tales of all the things that have a .000001% chance of affecting us, and many people, especially parents, seem to like making a big show of adopting a no-tolerance policy. Violent videogames potentially pose a risk because one kid in 50 million MIGHT have a violent episode? Ban all videogames. One child in 100 million MIGHT shoot themselves because their stupid parent left the thing loaded? Ban all firearms.
These people have to know how many children, as well as people in general, are hurt or killed in car accidents every year: Where is the preventative abundance of caution here? People drive while talking on their cell phones, drive while eating fast food, run through red lights, drive aggressively because apparently they think someone will call them a pussy if they don't (and this level of thinking is totally consistent with that of third-grade name-calling, in my opinion), buy big cars to compensate for not driving conscientiously ("at least if I have an accident, I have this Hummer so I'll walk away!"), and act as though they suffer under the delusion that their time is just SO VALUABLE that they can't be bothered to take the extra second it would take to drive like a reasonable human being who is aware of their own mortality. Newsflash: No one's time is that fucking valuable.
I can't understand how people can be terrified of what is a slight risk at worst, and be so cavalier about a comparatively huge risk that they face every single day. It seems that people are just willing to roll the dice when it comes to driving, and hope that Lady Luck will foist the head-on collision on some other schmuck, because they can't be bothered to take their responsibilities seriously. Maybe, to be fair, there's an argument to be made for that attitude; it's possible to die young even if you do everything right, and being overly cautious can put a damper on your fun. But you know what? If you're willing to roll the dice every time you get behind the wheel, 365 days a year, I don't want to hear a fucking THING from you about how GTA causes violence, or about how mass transportation is dangerous because of terrorists, or how anything that could conceivably be used as a weapon should be banned because children do unfortunate things and kill themselves occasionally.
RISK ASSESSMENT: Give Sanity A Chance
If you give a shit about risk prevention, then it has to be proportionate. If your concern about risk is so disproportionate that you can't take driving seriously, then you are completely incapable of assessing risk. It has been my experience that many people are thus incapable-- and the sad thing is, that bitch who can't shut up about GTA being violent is probably the same one who's sitting on her horn behind me, in her SUV, while on a cell phone, during a blizzard. With her kids in the backseat.
So the next time anyone goes on a self-righteous tirade about videogames or anything else that people tend to hyperventilate about, I'm going to look them dead in the eye and ask them about their driving. How seriously do they take their responsibilities every single time they get behind the wheel? Because unless they understand the concept of proportionate risk, and more importantly, act as though they understand proportionate risk every day, they have no right to lecture anyone about anything. None whatsoever.
Now, I could be wrong, but how many people do you think could tell me without lying that they always, always drive conscientiously and don't act like self-important douchebags on the road, because they're always thinking of the CHILDREN? My guess is not many.