TIA: Suburban ARSE Hellscape

I hate one part of life in America above all others. I’ve dropped hints here and there, but never devoted a blog post. I don’t like the physical act of driving a car.

If I drive for an hour, I’m tired afterwards. I haven’t subjected my body to physical effort, or even moved much, but I haven’t rested. It’s not meditation. Your attention is constantly occupied. You can let your thoughts drift a little, or listen to the radio, but you must use your brain to pay attention to traffic.

Is that a pothole I need to dodge? Is this guy going to try to pull out in front of me? Does the guy in the next lane see me? Am I going to make this light? Is this guy in front going to go quick enough? Should I honk?

These constant permutations don’t stop until you’ve shut off the engine. The intellectual bandwidth driving a car requires is a significant tax on your productivity. Hell, on your wellbeing. And that’s if the drive goes well.

Not all trips go well. I sometimes get angry.

Most road rage incidents seem to stem from drivers angered by perceived injustices on the road. Another driver entered in front of him, which they perceive as if someone jumped the queue at the store. But on the road, that doesn’t bother me at all. If somebody manages to get in front of me, I’d applaud the efficient use of space assuming it was performed safely.

I am slightly bothered by people who don’t keep traffic moving. I am a honker, and I’ll honk if somebody isn’t attentive to orderly rules of the road. But even slow drivers don’t make me angry. I only contemplate getting out of the car and teaching a lesson to dangerous drivers. Unsafe drivers. And topping that list are drivers who make risky maneuvers or ride too close behind.

These aggressors often drive a car (A) with visible damage, (B) worth four figures in dollars or (C) has a “temp tag” license plate. Sometimes you get a combo of those three. But you see aggressive driving from fancy sports cars and everything in between.

I don’t think I’m the typical profile of a road rager, an insistently safe minivan driver who will in fact break your nose for tailgating. I’m not typical because I don’t do it. That’s a fool’s game. People have guns here, more than ever. Search YouTube for any American city and “road rage shooting” and you can see both how recently and how often people get shot in traffic.

Even if I manage to get somebody out of their car without getting shot, my calculus has changed with the rise in popularity of mixed-martial arts. I’ve seen the dispersion of wrestling skills. I’ve seen that guys who 20 years ago I’d determine as easy to knock out might twist me up like a pretzel or make me holler “uncle.” Or break my wrist, whatever they do in jiu-jitsu, krav maga, etc.

I’m too old to be fighting in the street over trivial arguments anyway. But the anger is real, and road rage incidents are spiking nationwide.

People drive like pricks because they are over-acclimated to driving cars, a condition known as acclimated-rider syndrome and epidemic (ARSE). The ARSEs of society don’t know any other way to get around. They’ve never lived without a car, so they develop unrealistic expectations about how quick and convenient driving a car to their destination should be. They don’t see the car as a five-figure, depreciating asset that moves at a speed that regularly kills 200-pound mammals.

ARSE manifests itself in other ways too. My favorite, in a love-to-hate kind of way, is when people use their cars to travel easily walkable distances. I’ve seen people drive to a neighbor’s house 100 yards away. Or when somebody needs to go to two different stores in one parking lot, many people will return to their car after the first store not only to drop off their purchases, but to in fact start the engine again and drive the car to a parking space closer to the second store instead of just walking there. That’s ARSE.

I have a strategy for parking lots which saves me time and stress, but it occasionally perturbs ARSE passengers. I park at the first spot available after entering the lot. I’ll pass spots only if a large lot is empty, but I won’t pass a parked car. I always park on the outside edge of parked cars. The ARSE passenger may grumble about being further from the entrance than necessary.

ARSE drivers place a high importance on minimizing the steps they walk, so they look for the spot closest to the entrance of the building. My strategy doesn’t aim to save steps, but time. And you lose time looking for a spot that saves you steps. You lose even more time getting stuck and having to wait behind a car backing out or an elderly pedestrian negotiating a shopping cart. You also risk those obstacles on the way out, but not if you’re positioned to make a clean getaway. I have converted born-and-bred suburban warriors (thus prone to ARSE logic) to my parking strategy.

ARSE and car-dependence are why Americans are overweight. In college I saw Europeans and Latins would always gain 10 pounds soon after arriving in America. They thought it was because of the food. That is only part of it. The other factor is they’re not walking and cycling everywhere they go, not expending natural human energy, so they’re burning less calories.

There is an obesity epidemic spreading from the United States to the rest of the world, and all the blame seems to be on McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. But why not car dependency and ARSE? Show me an obese person, and it’s not necessarily certain he likes fast food or soda, but it is guaranteed he is an ARSE.

I don’t like driving the car. Nor do I like filling it with gas, changing the oil, getting things fixed or the price of it all. Most Americans take for granted how much it costs to drive a car because the ARSEs would never consider going without one.

After accounting for the price of the car itself and the recurring costs of driving it — insurance, fuel, maintenance and major repairs — the ARSE lifestyle costs about $10,000 per year. Given the average and median annual salaries are $52,000 and $34,000 respectively, most Americans spend a quarter of their income on their car-dependent, ARSE lifestyle.

One grave risk of that lifestyle for my fellow souses and sots are the harsh penalties for driving under the influence of a few beers. It’s a felony. It’s expensive. And it’s not that hard to get popped (you don’t have to be very drunk to be illegal). In most cities, it’s terribly inconvenient to play it safe. If you take a taxi home, you’ll need to take one back to your car in the morning. It’s not just the money, but the time of making two trips instead of one. And again depending on the city, is it even safe to leave the car overnight?

Many people believe they are “city people” if they live in a metropolitan area with a population of a couple million or whatever. But people in Houston, Atlanta or Phoenix lead fundamentally suburban lives, not urban at all, despite being in cities with large populations. Healthy, urban life means you don’t have to ignite fuel or charge electricity to create external energy for mobility, unless that energy is shared (buses and trains). You should be able to walk to get each of the following.

  1. Loaf of bread and gallon of milk
  2. Head of lettuce
  3. Bleach
  4. Dry-cleaning service
  5. Prescription medication
  6. Bank
  7. Meal to eat on premise
  8. Beer to go
  9. Beer to drink on premise

Where I live now, I can get five of nine, which is probably above average for ARSE-friendly America. But it’s not enough for my personal happiness. I want the whole nine.

I actually lived in St. Louis without a car for two years. It’s possible, but dangerous. You’ll inevitably be at bus and train stations late at night with juvenile, adult and elderly delinquents (they come in all types). And unlike big cities, you’ll be all alone with them. And outside. Nobody else around. I wouldn’t subject a wife and children to that. Hell, I wouldn’t do it myself at 43 years old.

With conscious design and willingness to brave the elements, you could live ARSE-free in a handful of similar cities that developed before the 20th century. But unfortunately the vast majority of locales in the United States are car-dependent. The ones that aren’t are prohibitively expensive.

The only cities where I know you can safely live ARSE-free (and to be truly ARSE-free means no car at all) are New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago and San Francisco. Those cities are prohibitively expensive. Meanwhile, almost as a rule, their public schools are bad at best. At worst they’re not safe. In St. Louis, they are growth-stunting if not traumatizing for white children.

A family wanting to escape the ARSE of American life not only has to pay more to live in a city you can navigate on foot, but they also have to find a private or charter school. That’s not too different than the quandary I faced in Lima. America has an ARSE addiction.

Many people living outside the United States seem to think the gun-crazed culture and third-world murder rate are the ever-present risk to your life here. I felt this way and even wrote about it in 2018 in the wake of some forgettable mass shooting.

But even then, I looked into mortality data and saw that more people died in car accidents than in by gun (murders, suicides and accidents), and concluded that ARSE was deadlier than the Church of the Second Amendment.

I was going to make that point here today, but I double-checked the numbers and saw this is changing. There are now 34 states that saw more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths. I wondered if Missouri, with one of the country’s highest murder rates, was on that list. Could Missouri’s ARSE drivers be more bloodthirsty than its gun-crazed outlaws? I thought it was possible.

Wrong. The Cave State, birthplace of Truman and Twain, saw 1,426 gun deaths in 2020 compared to 1,038 car deaths, or 3.9 deaths per day by gun vs. 2.8 by ARSE.

I want to dig into that data. How many of those deaths could be classified as both? For example, how many ARSE-crazed drivers shot and killed another driver and the death was chalked up as a gun death instead of a car death? It seems to me there should be a Venn diagram of death to gain a better understanding, but that’s for another day.

Is ARSE worse than guns? I don’t know, they both suck. This is America. It’s not great. Even if you don’t get killed, life in the car sucks. You only have to see guns or listen to gun nuts talk about guns once in a while, but you have to drive the damn car every day.

Yeah, ARSE is worse. I think ARSE contributes to the polarization and anger in America today. The ARSE lifestyle of the suburbs doesn’t force people to face each other. Everybody hides inside their car. They only face people in the workplace and neighborhood retailers. Life behind the wheel is antisocial, often aggravated by listening to kooky conspiracy podcasts peddling fear and loathing of others.

In a proper city, you share space with people from other parts of town. The moneyed classes come face to face with the working classes, the lighter skin tones with the dark. And people make it work. They get along just fine. The relentless expansion away from urban cores and doubling down on the ARSE lifestyle reduces that interaction and inflames tribalism and animosity.

It’s even worse for children who aren’t old enough to drive. Their forced anti-sociability is why all the school shootings happen in outer-ring suburbs and exurbs. I can’t think of one that ever happened in one of those aforementioned ARSE-free cities.

And you still have to drive the car every day.

11 comments

  1. You should be able to walk to get each of the following.
    1-9 yup
    and the bank is as near as a corner shop (“Agente”)

    Driving. I love driving here, the city traffic needs concentration, as do your mirrors (sneak-ups either side), but the potholes are strictly for the Bigger Beast and the Mariupol-style speedbumps are killers for smart saloons.

    But everything’s a long way here, a fun day out is 2-3 hours each way, on part-asphalt, and it is definitely knackering for the next day (but then I’m “somewhat” over sixty). The big bug right now is can I get my licence renewed, because our wonderful ex health minister introduced a new covid cure called nobody without a full vax chart can go inside anywhere like banks, …, notaries (yikes), and govt offices (ulp) – which folks seem to have swallowed along with the covid scarey religion.

    Road rage doesn’t exist so much here, I got told off by a combi driver for making threatening gestures and he more or less just said “calm down, amigo”, as you may remember it’s hectic but cool at the same time, quite difficult for an anglo (or “ASJ”) like me to come to terms with.

    I keep bumping into the fact that latins like to be near each other and anglos don’t. What say?

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    1. Much lower road rage. I think that’s because, despite being drivers of cars, they’re still leading urban lives coming in close proximity to others. Driving in Latin America often entails both parties stopped in traffic with windows down, so they’re close enough to talk without raising their voice too much. There are moments of anger, but almost always satisfied by an angry glare. I never saw it go further than a stare or a couple words.

      Driver-vs.-cyclist rage, however, is a thing. But nothing like road rage in America.

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  2. I retired and left the big city (Dallas) because 1 – rents are too high and 2 – too much traffic. I’m now living in a Texas city of 100,000 population and I want to go smaller still; maybe 10K to 50K. There are no good jobs here, but I’m retired. As for road rage, it doesn’t impact me much. What irritates me is men who let their women drive them around. My wife has a license, but I always drive if I’m in the car. My mindset is, if you’re a man, you should drive. Side note: When we lived in Colombia I never drove because the traffic is crazy. We took cabs/Uber everywhere or sometimes we walked. We had a few stores close to where we lived and we walked there a few times a week. Here in the USA there are no stores within walking distance. Maybe bike distance.

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    1. One of the many thoughts I left out of this, was the possibility of going ARSE-free in a small city. I was inspired by the repat chronicle of Jim Shultz, a former journo based in Bolivia for 20 years. His daughter ultimately married a guy from Lockport, a small town (pop. 20,000) outside Buffalo, New York. Shultz moves there to be close to his grandchildren and falls in love with the town, cycling around the historic center. It’s tempting because it’s cheap and ARSE-free. In our naturalist travels I’ve seen a few towns that could fit the bill. The downside is no high-end restaurants, upscale bars, Peruvian food, salsa dancing and all the other amenities of big cities with big money, populations.

      Shultz’s memoir is a quick, fun read. He saw the rise of Evo and MAS up close and personal.
      Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087SXLQT5/
      Shultz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jimshultz

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      1. Being from a small town of similar size, I can say I never related to gringos saying that they hate driving and is one reason why they left home or one thing they like about Latin America anyhow. I always thought they were full of it and just giving “the list” of reasons for why they hate life back home as is typical with especially anti-patriots (usually such moments include a long laundry list of things they hype up but really only one to three things is what drove them and what currently drives them to live down here).

        Granted, context matters and your article made me consider it more.

        I only had a few years in my teenager years driving before selling the truck a decade ago (probably a good thing as I almost caused at least 4 or 5 accidents in those few years being a reckless teenager). But, on top of that, “getting to work” didn’t involve more than a 10 minute ride in traffic that isn’t really an issue (even if I was 40 with a career up there, driving to work wouldn’t be much of anything).

        You’ll have more issue with the ice on the road during the Midwestern winter or scraping it off your vehicle in the morning (which is all around another issue we don’t have down here in Latin America unless you plan on moving to the very far south of Argentina or Chile).

        My only experience relevant to “big city driving” is when I drove from Ohio to NYC and around NYC. Wildly different from a small town in middle of nowhere (especially NYC and how fucked and confusing the driving rules seem to be there from memory).

        So, to be fair, I just don’t have that experience commuting long distances for work nor the many years driving to relate as I only had driven for only a few small years in a climate that isn’t very stressful for driving (ignoring the ice) before moving to Latin America.

        Having said that, there are some elements of what you said in the article that exist even in a small town environment (what you call ARSE in the article).

        For example, I’ve seen plenty of people driving in a parking lot of a small town for countless amount of minutes just looking for that closest space that is only 15 to 25 feet closer (basically driving in circles until someone pulls out of their space).

        Also, even in a small town (at least the one I grew up in), you aren’t getting anywhere without a car (at least in the neighborhood I lived in). Unless you want to walk 30 minutes (which, after living in Mexico City, isn’t such a big deal but plenty of folks back home ain’t doing that). They’ll be using the car to get to work, get food, go to the grocery market, anywhere really (especially in the brutal winter with all the snow where, unless you were like me in middle school, you wouldn’t want to walk through to get anywhere).

        Among other things.

        Though I also lived in another small town in Ohio for some odd years and it was “more walkable” as long as you lived near the main street with all the restaurants (and assuming you didn’t feel like driving to Walmart or anything like that which would require a car). For anyone living away from those main areas of small towns, having a car would actually be preferable.

        And many get one then — especially also if you plan on ever traveling anywhere beyond the small town to some other small town or a nearby city as many have to do given few want to take the Greyhound (though I don’t think the Greyhound is THAT bad but I get it) and not having a car in the US is also more of a “negative look” than not having one in Latin America.

        Better than the stress of driving in St. Louis or any other big city though?

        I have very, very limited experience but I can only guess so (you have more experience with that than I do).

        Though, as one other point, I’m not sure I’d agree with your take about road rage in Latin America (or how I’m reading it anyhow). Again, this is perhaps unfair to compare two very different things (small town Midwest to Mexico City or any other Latin city I’ve been to or lived in). But I can only say I have seen some wild road rage moments down here such as:

        1. Taxi drivers getting into accidents and purposefully smashing their vehicles into the vehicle of the other person trying to flee the scene.

        2. Lots of cussing “HIJO DE SU PUTA MADREEE.”

        3. A motorcycle dude taking a large rock from the ground and chucking it at someone’s car window and then driving off quickly.

        Among other moments that sometimes bring out violence.

        Mexico City at least has plenty of it though (not to mention the shit driving skills of folks here or anywhere — especially when you consider so many get a driving license without even needing to prove they can drive. Literally!).

        Though, when it comes to the smaller tensions (which I agree with you are not as severe down here than up there), one theory of mine is that folks down here are more used to dumb shit happening in daily life.

        I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with your claim about how ARSE culture and the anti-socialization of having to drive everywhere leads to more tensions on the road with the quote like this here: “In a proper city, you share space with people from other parts of town. The moneyed classes come face to face with the working classes, the lighter skin tones with the dark. And people make it work. They get along just fine. The relentless expansion away from urban cores and doubling down on the ARSE lifestyle reduces that interaction and inflames tribalism and animosity.”

        I do agree there is an increasing anti-socialization among people and it’s something you see in many aspects of life here and in Latin America to a lesser degree (due to various factors like people becoming more addicted to the internet than going outside for example but I’ll leave it at that to not ramble on that topic for now).

        Still, I don’t disagree with that point but just don’t see what you mean by that (for example, here in Mexico City, I don’t think the walk a normal person makes from the house to the computer cafe or anywhere else would make him less prone to road rage. It’s the stress you talk about with driving that I would imagine would be a bigger cause of it, among other factors).

        Still, one theory I was getting at a second ago is that, over the years here, I have noticed more folks down here (than compared to back home) just having a “fuck it, it is what it is” attitude to shit things happening.

        That isn’t to say that none of them get mad or demonstrate road rage (I’ve seen it plenty of times) but that the greater tolerance I see local folks having for shit situations (be it driving on the road or in any other context) makes it where they’d be less likely to cause a scene.

        On top of that, we have guns.

        While there are plenty of Latin Americans with guns (illegally anyhow as laws are stricter down here with less gun shops to buy from — I think Mexico only has one in the entire country), most do not have them.

        I’d almost take a guess here that this factor, at least in part, explains the less violent nature of road rage in Latin America compared to the US.

        For example, there was some road rage incident that went viral online not too long ago of, if I remember right, two Puerto Rican men getting into an incident. One tried to stop the other from driving and came out of the vehicle with a weapon (some steel like object to hit his vehicle with). The other dude came out with a gun. The first man runs away (no longer a threat) but ends up on the ground and the second man walks up over him and point blank executes him with one last shot on the street before driving off.

        Among other road rage incidents you can find online.

        Of course, Puerto Rico (as far as I am aware but could be wrong) enjoys the 1st Amendment given it is a US territory and I’m not sure how many folks there even want guns. I read online it supposedly has stricter gun laws when compared to the rest of the US but I wouldn’t know from experience.

        Either way, when it comes to road rage in the US, I kinda think that the quantity of guns you got out there worsens the situation a bit when compared to most of Latin America (especially beyond more violent countries like Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, etc). Of course, it lets folks defend themselves but it also lets others take things beyond just screaming “HIJO DE SU PUTA MADRE” when they wouldn’t have gone beyond that anyhow.

        Though, having said that, sometimes local Latin Americans can be fearful of the gun also (especially in countries that have more violence and crime rates even though the average citizen doesn’t have a gun compared to those in the US).

        As I write this out, I remember one moment years ago in Mexico City where I left a club with some folks in Polanco area late at night to get some hot dogs across the street. I don’t remember it well (too many shots?) but we crossed the street and I guess didn’t look both ways properly. One driver honked, put his vehicle to a stop and started cussing at me. I started cussing at him back and approached his vehicle (typical 23 year old I was). He sped off. One of the dudes I was with freaked out and warned me against doing that (“puede tener un arma,” he said or something like that about a gun). We left behind the moment and went on to get some hot dogs where I, thankfully, was not shot (if that was a risk or not, who knows).

        Granted, maybe “gun sensitivity” and issues of violence is more of a thing to consider in Mexico than other parts of Latin America (Uruguay?) but I’ll leave it at that. My main point with that one though is that the easier access to guns (not against people having them as I’d like to have one down here legally) makes it where the road rage incidents, as I said, are more likely to go beyond just words or hitting someone’s vehicle with a random object or with your own car.

        Finally, on one last point, I will end it by saying I do miss driving a tiny bit. Miss having to drive to get anywhere? No. That’d be annoying compared to being able to just walk anywhere like down here (and perhaps, to some degree, I can kinda get where any expat comes from when he expresses annoyance at this fact of life back home).

        But I do miss having a vehicle (a nice truck perhaps) and just ride around with good music and plenty of scenery. Two very different scenarios obviously (be it HAVING to ride to commute to work everyday versus just having a nice ride or not having to depend on the bus).

        Still, I would never ride a vehicle or own a vehicle in Mexico City. The traffic is way too fucking chaotic. If I was living in a small town in Argentina or Chile, then sure. I’d absolutely buy a vehicle then.

        Anyway, that’s all. Nice article. Enjoyed reading it.

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  3. Also, there’s a few last comments that came to mind as I read the article again.

    First, there’s this quote here: “ARSE and car-dependence are why Americans are overweight. In college I saw Europeans and Latins would always gain 10 pounds soon after arriving in America. They thought it was because of the food. That is only part of it. The other factor is they’re not walking and cycling everywhere they go, not expending natural human energy, so they’re burning less calories.”

    You are right. Definitely, not having to walk 30 minutes to the super market (the time it takes me where I live now) hurts losing weight. But I’d definitely lean more towards the food as being the main villain here. Just take Mexican food. Here in Mexico, they don’t give you those HUGE baskets of chips with cheese and tomato salsa. Back home? Anytime I go back home I visit one of those spots with family. We easily finish the thing before the meal. Imagine how many calories that is? Not to imagine the other foods up there that are much higher in calories. I often have a lot of places I miss eating at from back home and, whenever I go back, make sure to try them again. I definitely gain an easy 5 pounds on a quick month back. Then back to Mexico (or anywhere in Latin America)? I easily lose the weight. No disagreement here though about the importance of the walking but the food back home is killer. You gain so much more weight with that tasty shit back home (and it is tasty as fuck).

    Second, there’s some select quotes here and there. Here they are:

    “ARSE manifests itself in other ways too. My favorite, in a love-to-hate kind of way, is when people use their cars to travel easily walkable distances. I’ve seen people drive to a neighbor’s house 100 yards away. Or …”

    “I have a strategy for parking lots which saves me time and stress, but it occasionally perturbs ARSE passengers. I park at the first spot available after entering the lot. I’ll pass spots only if a large lot is empty, but I won’t pass a parked car. I always park on the outside edge of parked cars. The ARSE passenger may grumble about being further from the entrance than necessary.”

    In another article you published recently, there was someone who mentioned something along the lines of how “Latin America changes you.” It was in the article about you having a dream of expats sitting around the table and asking if they’d ever go back.

    This isn’t a point or argument but simply a question to ponder: did you always park on the “outside edge of parked cars?” Or did this begin after you began living in Latin America? I’m not saying you were or were not like this before you began living down here in 2008. Only that I ask it as a question out of curiosity.

    Personally, I’ve been guilty also a decade ago of driving around for that parking space but, on any visit back home where I’d be driving my dad’s truck to pick shit up, I have caught myself just parking wherever without any concern for those extra steps to take to get to the store.

    As I read your article again, I just wonder to myself if this is a change you have seen in yourself or if you usually preferred parking at the first spot (no matter how far) before your first step to Latin America.

    Just out of curiosity if it is or is not an example of how life down here changes us over time. Nothing more.

    Third, there’s this quote here: “These aggressors often drive a car (A) with visible damage, (B) worth four figures in dollars.”

    Back when I first had a vehicle (a truck) over a decade ago (and it was my only one), I remember it being a used vehicle in the low four figures. Not sure how much things have changed since then as I haven’t been in the “vehicle buyers market” since then but I have heard how crazy expensive vehicles are up there these days now in 2022. Just interesting to see that sentence because things are different now, I guess.

    Fourth, there’s this quote: “And again depending on the city, is it even safe to leave the car overnight?”

    Down here, not necessarily safe either. You might get approached in Mexico City (and other cities?) by someone asking for a bribe to park your car there (especially if in a desirable area and, if you don’t, might get your car keyed). Or you might have trouble finding such a spot to park with so many folks putting down random objects to designate that spot as “being reserved” by someone else. Not to mention the issues you could have parking in a parking lot managed by some folks who might fuck with your car while you are gone (steal your gas somehow, steal stuff inside and other nonsense).

    On a last point that isn’t overly important, I’d ask about the gun deaths versus motor deaths statistics. Granted, a gun death is a gun death and that’s that. But, when we factor in risk to the average person going about their day, I’d wonder if gun deaths are really more deadly than motor deaths in those states? How many of those gun deaths are suicide related?

    “Though they tend to get less public attention than gun-related murders, suicides have long accounted for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. In 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders (19,384), according to the CDC. The remaining gun deaths that year were unintentional (535), involved law enforcement (611) or had undetermined circumstances (400).”

    From here: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/02/03/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/

    Having said that, it is likely a point in favor of life in Latin America, I suppose.

    When taking out the gun deaths that are by suicide, I guess motor deaths are much more likely to kill you I suppose (unless said person was a gun owner having suicidal thoughts).

    Still, on the topic of those dying in car accidents, I’d take a wild guess here and say you are at worst odds in Latin America perhaps (but only if you are driving regularly).

    Given you don’t have to drive regularly down here in most cities (outside of a few where being in a vehicle to get around WOULD be very preferable), I’d say your risk of dying by vehicle is only related to your ability to dodge shit drivers in Latin America who never had to take a driving test to get the license and who are too busy on their phones to notice you crossing the street (or who, in my experience, seem oddly determined and conscious of wanting to run you over).

    Or, if you happen to be in a city where being in your own car or using a taxi is preferable everyday down here in whatever city you are in where that would be preferable (Barranquilla of Colombia comes to mind), then you again have to deal with the worse driving abilities of the locals compared to those back home.

    For example, when I lived in Quilla, it was common for my taxi drivers to speed past the red light or stop sign, do a quick honk to indicate they are not stopping and are present and speed up.

    Take two of those folks to do the same (without seat belts as most taxis back then had none) and you are thrown through the windshield like a football.

    But nothing more to add (enough rambling for today. I need to grab another bottle of vodka).

    Take care.

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    1. Shit, I got one last thing to add (sorry for spamming, I’d just edit all these comments into one but I’m not able to but I felt like adding this last point after reading what you sent by email).

      In one point to your favor regarding the stress of driving down here (after reading the email only section), I’d like to expand on the topic of bribes (something you and I are familiar with).

      I’ve known folks down here who have bribed their way out of traffic violations (be it for drinking under influence, speeding, passing a stop sign or whatever).

      Granted, I know plenty of Latin Americans (especially those of more comfortable means) might bitch about us gringos bribing people (even if they do it plenty of times themselves) because of the logic of “if we bribe, we encourage corruption.”

      And some “follow the rules” gringos complain of the same.

      Regardless, when speaking of stress from driving, I’d add this is one point to consider.

      On one hand, you got more corrupt cops looking for that bribe and more likely to harass you down here (especially if they can easily see you are a white foreigner driving — driving while white?).

      But, on the flip side, the fact that you can more easily bribe yourself out of shit down here (while driving or not) is a benefit against the mental stress of driving a vehicle back home, I guess.

      That’s all.

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    2. I was definitely anti-car before Latin America. The two years I lived in St. Louis without one were before Latin America.

      And re: guns, suicides and accidents are still gun deaths. When talking about gun violence as a health issue, we’re not just trying to reduce murder rates. In fact, a more “pro-life” legal environment for guns would save the most lives by on reducing suicides and accidents. Murders would be least affected.

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  4. There is one great thing about the pandemic– It has reshaped the work paradigm. Working from home (WFH) is more accepted now. WFH has allowed me to avoid a task that I have come to vehemently hate– driving.

    In my travels in Latin America, I learned that driving and traffic patterns there are far crazier than in the U.S. Honking and aggressive driving, appear to be the norm. I had to warn a Colombian friend of mine that honking can get her shot in the U.S., and implored her to not do it in when she visits. She had no clue, and heeded my warning.

    When in Lima, I don’t even bother renting a car. I take Uber.

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  5. You can blame car dependancy on single family zoning laws that prohibit the builing of alternative housing / city designs. In the 20th century, America bought into single family zoning en mass (barely now being reconsidered). Being cut off on the road is a magnitude of difference from the grocery store queue line; road rage results because your very life and wealth is at stake. A careless mistake can very easily result is serious injury or death. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible not make mistakes on the road. Every time I go for a drive, even a short 10 minute drive, I notice all sorts of driving errors, both small and major. Also, in US compared to LatinAmr., there are more boulevards that strech long wide, hence high speeds–it’s the high speeds that leave me nerve wracked.

    View at Medium.com

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  6. Vehicles are much more dangersous than guns. In a typical recent year, the US had about 15,000 gun deaths attributed to homicide/accidents, plus about 22,000 suicide gun deaths. Meanwhile, approx. 40,000 Americans die in auto accidents (recent years). Most of 40,000 car deaths were accidental, meaning there was no intention of death, neither as homicide or suicide. In cases of gun homicides, ussually there is an aggravating reason for the murder, ie. someone did something offensive to another person (nothwithstand accidents, mistaken identity, and senseless murder). Futher, I recken a high percentage of gun homicides take place along a narrow swath of the population, young minority males engaged in urban conflicts involving gangs, drugs, robbery, and personal beefs. A gun suicide is not a threat to a neighbor. However, car accidents are more evenly distributed among the population at large, in a seemingly random fashion. In a car you are kind-of-a sitting duck.

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