I think this chart speaks for itself.

Original Sightline Institute chart, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute chart, available under our free use policy.

It’s probably fair to say that we’re in the midst of a full-blown media frenzy over the (admittedly worrisome) spread of the latest Ebola virus. Yet so far this year roughly 242 times as many people have died from traffic collisions—and I haven’t yet heard anyone call for banning cars, making driving illegal, or quarantining motorists.

It’s almost as if we’re prone to focus on—and even overreact to—new and near-term problems and not very good at dealing with slower-moving “constant” threats even if they are wildly more dangerous. There’s a lesson here for our wholly inadequate response to climate change, though it’s not a case I can make with nearly as much alacrity as Jon Stewart.

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    Notes: Data on traffic related fatalities from the World Health Organization (WHO) here. Data on Ebola virus fatalities from WHO, CDC, and various recent media accounts such as this and this.