Today’s vehicles are packed with more safety and collision-avoidance technology than ever before. But traffic-related deaths in the United States have nevertheless risen sharply over the last two years, up 14.4% after decades of generally trending downward.
Curiously, certain kinds of folks are increasingly prone to be involved in fatal car accidents than others: pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Bloomberg contributors Kyle Stock, Lance Lambert and David Ingold write, “The increase in fatalities has been largely among bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians—all of whom are easier to miss from the driver’s seat than, say, a 4,000-pound SUV—especially if you’re glancing up from your phone rather than concentrating on the road. Last year, 5,987 pedestrians were killed by cars in the U.S., almost 1,100 more than in 2014—that’s a 22% increase in just two years.”
So what gives? You guessed it: Many experts think smartphones are largely to blame. That theory is anecdotally supported by a surge in accidents in which there didn’t appear to be other obvious causes. Bloomberg again: “In more than half of 2015 fatal crashes, motorists were simply going straight down the road—no crossing traffic, rainstorms, or blowouts.”
Research elsewhere continues to indicate that today’s teens are an anxious group. In his New York Times Magazine piece, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety,” Benoit Denizet-Lewis explores overlapping trends contributing to the sharp rise in the number of teens who report anxiety and depression. Though his piece notes several influences—including family conflicts, pressure to perform in school and fears about terrorism—Denizet-Lewis says social media continues to play a big role in amplifying teens’ anxiety:
Anxious kids certainly existed before Instagram, but many of the parents I spoke to worried that their kids’ digital habits — round-the-clock responding to texts, posting to social media, obsessively following the filtered exploits of peers—were partly to blame for their children’s struggles. To my surprise, anxious teenagers tended to agree. At Mountain Valley, I listened as a college student went on a philosophical rant about his generation’s relationship to social media. “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,” he said. “Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”
Meanwhile, in England a new Facebook trend is encouraging young users to intentionally disappear for two days. The so-called 48-Hour Challenge awards points for every mention of a seemingly missing child on social media while they’re absent. After one desperate English mother’s child was returned home by police, she said, “I was terrified they were dead or would be raped, trafficked or killed. … But these kids just think it’s funny. There was not even a moment of remorse when my child was taken into police custody and when the police brought my child home, I could see posts of selfies from the police car.”
In Walpole, Massachusetts, Boyden Elementary school has told parents it’s cancelling its annual Halloween costume parade due to concerns that it might make some students feel marginalized. In a message to parents, the school’s principal said, “The [Halloween] costume parade is out of our ordinary routine and can be difficult for many students. Also, the parade is not inclusive of all the students and it is our goal each and every day to ensure all student’s individual differences are respected.”
In other news, Netflix has begun partnering with Nielsen and releasing—for the first time—first-week viewership numbers on some of its shows. Speaking of Netflix, forget binge-watching. The new thing is binge-racing: watching an entire season of a new show within 24 hours of its online premiere. And CNN reports that alleged Russian attempts to influence political opinions in the United States last year even included—gulp!—Pokémon Go?
Finally this week, the cultural wave in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment/assault story continues to ripple influentially outward, with other actresses coming forth with allegations about his abusive behavior. But A-list actresses, as well as other entertainers and even athletes, are telling other stories of harassment and assault too. Reese Witherspoon said she was assaulted when she was just 16. Jennifer Lawrence talked about being told to lose weight—at 15—and being forced to stand nearly nude in a lineup of other women. America Ferrara shared her story. So did Molly Ringwald. Singer Bjork. Martha Stewart.
Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have spoken out about being sexually abused by team doctor Larry Nassar, who stands accused of assaulting 140 girls and women and is on trial in Michigan. In an image of a letter posted on Twitter, Maroney wrote, “People should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere. Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things that I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.”
Commenting on the still-unfolding scandal, Christian youth culture expert Walt Mueller wrote in his blog earlier this week,
We live in a hypersexualized world. I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to say that we are reaping what we’ve sown. Sure, sexual brokenness has been present in humanity since Genesis 3:6. Like everything else we have, we are, and we do, our sexuality fell apart at the fall. And, rather than seeking sexual flourishing and Shalom in ways that bring glory to God, we’ve conjured up a culture where anything and everything sexual is encouraged and even permitted. So rather than creating a culture that discourages sexual harassment and assault, we’ve got ourselves a world of our own making where kids who were taught to grow up doing anything and everything, are now adults who are doing anything and everything.
Mueller also writes, “Those of us who live and work on the landscape of youth ministry need to recognize that the problem exists in our world as well.” He admonishes, “Now that the lid’s been blown off for so many, the church needs to get its hands dirty … pastors, counselors, youth workers, friends. Our collective responsibility is to listen, love, care, and get them to the help they need.”