5 Innocent Factors That Might Mean You’ll Die in a Car Crash

Making planes safer actually makes roads more dangerous
5 Innocent Factors That Might Mean You’ll Die in a Car Crash

Cars are much safer than they used to be. We record the danger of cars in terms of deaths per 100 million miles driven, and a century ago, that number was 18.65. Today, it’s just 1.3, so cars are 95 percent less dangerous than they were then.

Does that make them safe? Well, they still kill more than 40,000 people in America every year. That’s twice as many as the number of people who are murdered with guns. And some drivers are a lot more at risk than others. For example, you might be more likely to die in a car crash if you suffer from such conditions as...

Owning a Cat

If you own a cat, or if you’ve taken the precaution of not owning a cat, you might already know about Toxoplasma gondii. It’s a protozoan parasite that infects cats and also might jump to humans, thanks to all the cat shit you need to deal with. That results in the infection known as toxoplasmosis, which has wormed its way into a third or more of all the people on Earth

Best-case scenario, this results in no symptoms at all. Worst-case, it drives you insane. Though, death is also a worst-case scenario, isn’t it? So, can toxoplasmosis kill you in a car, and was this your cat’s plan from day one? 

cat on car

Elisa Schmidt/Unsplash

She wants that car for herself.

Yes, concluded a study from the Czech Republic. With this brain parasite controlling you, your risk of dying in car crash more than doubles. The issue here is Toxoplasma leaves cysts in your neural tissues, which reduce how quickly you can react to all kinds of stimuli, including trucks suddenly barreling into the intersection. 

Jokes about cat assassins aside, you might wonder how this effect on you benefits the parasite causing it. The answer: It doesn’t. If you lived longer, that would suit the parasite better. Parasites aren’t perfect. Give them a few more thousand years of evolution, and maybe they’ll improve. 

Being a Woman

Okay, settle down. We’re not here to inform you that women are bad drivers. In fact, it looks like a male driver of a car or van is twice as likely to be in accident that kills someone than a female driver is. And now that we’ve said that, we don’t know why we thought that would settle people down — that news probably made some of you more angry than ever.

But the point we want to talk about today isn’t who causes accidents but rather this: If you do get into an accident when driving, and all other conditions are held constant, are you more likely to die if you’re a man or a woman? The answer is you’re some 20 percent more likely to die as a woman, and some 75 percent more likely to get injured. 

woman driving

Jan Baborák/Unsplash

If you’re a woman who owns a cat, just give up now. 

Much of the difference comes in the form of spinal and hip injuries. This is because women have wider hips. Another factor is that women sit closer to the steering wheel, since they’re likely to be shorter than a male driver.

Lawmakers in some states are doubtlessly using this information to justify new legislation banning all women from driving cars, for their own protection. But short of that, one step we can take to respond to this info is to design new crash-test dummies modeled after women’s bodies to guide us as we redesign cars. Dummies are otherwise modeled after men, both because men are considered default and out of the fear that if they’re modeled after women, male employees will try having sex with them. 

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time is a dumb idea. We only do it out of habit, because someone wanted more time to hunt for bugs, someone else wanted more time to golf and then war broke out. We don’t have a good reason to keep the system going today. 

One supposed reason for it is to reduce the risk of accidents. We make sure people are driving when it’s bright, and this “time-of-day effect” leads to fewer accidents. But when we look at the data, we see accidents actually spike when the clocks change, rather than going down. Overall, when we look at hundreds of thousands of vehicle deaths across two decades, we see that moving the clocks twice a year leads to 28 additional people dying annually. 

broken clock

Gaspar Uhas/Unsplash

Wait, but they said time heals all wounds.

Clearly, we should just pick one time and stick to it. The only problem is, every time someone proposes doing this, they pick the wrong time, and no one likes it. 


While obesity presents various risks, you might theorize that it could actually help you in a car crash. A nice thick layer of blubber could cushion your more essential organs, just as surely as if you walked around in a suit made of pillows. Indeed, an analysis of thousands of studies on car crashes concluded that obesity is associated with a reduced chance of getting injured in a car crash. 


Tijana Drndarski/Unsplash

This is why donuts should be covered by auto insurance. 

Great news, right? Wait, no. It turns out obesity still increases the severity of car injuries and increases your overall risk of dying in a crash. One reason is, if you’re obese, your organs might already not be in the best shape even before you drive into that pole. 

Confusingly, while being obese or overweight increases your risk of dying in a crash, an elevated BMI is associated with a lower risk of dying in a crash. The lesson here, say the researchers, is that BMI is an inaccurate shorthand and shouldn’t really be used for anything. 

Giving Kids Their Own Seats on Planes

If you slip onto a plane with a one-year-old, you’re probably not going to buy them their own separate seat. You’re just going to keep them on your lap. This seems wise, because if they’re on their own, they’re definitely going to order champagne. Also, they aren’t big enough to plop down in a seat on their own, and an extra ticket costs money. But what happens if the plane bumps into an especially chunky cloud, and your seatbelt is the only thing keeping you from flying out of your seat? Your child might slip out of your grasp and slam against the roof. 

The solution to this is a special child-restraint system, the air equivalent of a kids’ car seat. Your kid will stay tightly strapped in, somewhere more secure than your arms. An airline might let you install one of these into a seat you haven’t paid for, which happens to be vacant, but the only sure way to use such a system is to buy your kid their own ticket. For the sake of kids’ safety, you might even say that all parents should be required to buy separate tickets for their toddlers. 

child restraint system


Also, make sure that model plane has no sharp corners.

But wait. This article is about things that increase the risk of dying. It’s about things that increase the risk of dying in a car crash, and what do plane seats have to do with car crashes?

Here's what: If we require parents to buy their young children separate tickets on planes, many of them will choose not to fly at all. When possible, they’ll make the same journey by road — and driving is much more dangerous than flying. The FAA estimates that mandating plane restraint systems would save some kids’ lives in the unlikely event of an emergency, but for every one of those lives saved, 60 additional people would die on the roads thanks to passengers opting for highway travel as an alternative. 

Yeah, cars are dangerous. If a plane crashes tomorrow and kills 125 people, you’ll hear about it on the news. But that many people die in cars in the U.S. every single day. Really, the most prudent option is to never travel at all. 

Impartially, we recommend staying home and reading stuff online instead. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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