The New York Times ran an interesting op-ed piece last week about how a number of American presidents have lost loved ones in fatal car accidents. And the author, Cynthia Wachtell, has a theory about how that has impacted national policy on auto safety: She believes it has made presidents shy away from spearheading action on that issue.
Wachtell kicked off her piece by noting that during the vice presidential candidate debates last Thursday night, Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. recounted how he had lost his first wife and a daughter in a car accident 40 years ago.
President Barack Obama’s father was killed in a car crash in 1983, Wachtell wrote. Former President Bill Clinton’s dad died in a car accident three months before Clinton was born.
And Republicans haven’t been spared. Former presidential candidate John McCain came back to the U.S. after years of capture in North Vietnam to find that his then-wife had been badly disfigured in a car accident, according to Wachtell. The couple later divorced.
And GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney sustained a concussion and several other injuries in France during a head-on crash.
Wachtell is an advocate of tougher federal laws to increase traffic and road safety. After all, she cited statistics that in just the first quarter this year, about 7,630 people have been killed in motor vehicle accidents. That compares to a total death toll of 6,600 military who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, she said.
There are many steps the government could take to cut down on accidents, such as instituting national bans on driving while using a cellphone, or texting while driving. But Wachtell postures that presidents like Obama don’t focus on driver safety because it dredges up upsetting memories.
She urges whoever is elected President next month to use to their personal experience with car accidents, painful as it may be, to champion motor vehicle safety during their four-year term. And I think that’s a great idea.