Combine H1N1, media hype and transit, and the result seems to be a new and exciting way to die while getting from place to place. Call me old-fashioned, though, because I’m still more worried about getting hit by a car.
I’m not saying H1N1 isn’t a problem: After all, 18 Albertans have died so far. I don’t take that lightly, but at least I can take comfort that vaccination has begun, many of the deaths had contributing factors, and the problem is being taken seriously — even if the provincial government is still getting its act together.
ETS is doing its part by disinfecting buses and trains nightly. It could go wild with hand sanitizer stations, too, but can’t just ban everyone with the sniffles.
Common courtesy already dictates trying as much as possible not to sneeze and hack on your neighbours. To do otherwise is simply anti-social, flu season or not.
As a germophobe, I tend to train surf and press buttons with a knuckle. Really, though, washing your hands would suffice.
With my H1N1-on-transit fears under control, I’m back to the things I normally worry about while getting around.
Just last Tuesday, two women were killed in a crash on the Sherwood Park Freeway near 71 Street, bringing Edmonton’s traffic death toll up to 30 on the year. Desensitized as we are, this didn’t elicit much of a response.
Neither did the deaths of 410 Albertans in 2008. After all, that was actually a good year — there were 458 traffic fatalities in 2007. Missing in these already high numbers are hidden deaths from air pollution, usually estimated at upwards of twice the number of crash fatalities.
Somehow, society has accepted this as the cost of driving multi-tonne metal boxes around. Meanwhile, whether we drive or not, even crossing the street in Edmonton is a risk: A staggering 12 city pedestrians were killed in 2007.
Last month, Mirra Gatapia crossed the street after getting off an ETS bus. Eastbound traffic had stopped at the crosswalk, but a westbound truck did not. She died from head injuries. Another pedestrian was struck the same way last week.
While there’s no vaccine, there are many things we could be doing. Lowering residential speed limits is one. Council is mulling it over, but there’s still an appalling amount of resistance.
It’s time for some serious soul searching. It’s time to stop giving so many perfectly avoidable deaths so little thought.