In the aftermath of police shootings of African Americans in several cities around the country, as well as terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, some people are beginning to question just how safe we are these days.
I don't know about you, but I feel safer than ever. I remember living in New York City as a young man in the 1970s. My wife was mugged in the vestibule of our brownstone. I also recall a time when I was walking down West 88th Street, approaching three young guys hanging out by a streetlamp. It was dark, about 7 p.m. As I walked past I noticed one of them was holding a handgun down by his side. It was too late for me to turn around, so I just kept going, not making eye contact, trying to remain calm. But by blood pressure shot up by about a hundred points.
Then there was another time I ran down the steps into the subway. It was in the morning; I was late for work. I was stopped cold when I saw three cops surrounding a black man who was lying on the platform. One of the cops had his knee in his back. Another held a gun to the guy's head.
I don't live in New York City anymore. I haven't for years. But I do go visit occasionally, and now the people I see on the street are young, well-dressed, and innocently if eagerly going about their business. The Lower East Side used to be a slum. Now it's upper middle class. Brooklyn is obviously and pleasantly multicultural, and feels as safe as my neighborhood in the outer suburbs.
The fact is, violent crimes in New York City rose throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s. They peaked at 212,000 violent crimes in 1990. They've been going down ever since. Last year the official report counted 75,000 violent crimes in New York.
It's not just New York City. Nationally, violent crimes have followed a similar arc. They peaked in 1992 at almost 2 million. But by 2014 violent crimes in the U. S. had fallen to 1.2 million, even though there are plenty more people around today than there were in 1992.
You're also safer in your car. The motor vehicle death rate peaked in 1969 at a little over 26 per hundred thousand population. Then seatbelts came in, and airbags, and stricter DUI enforcement. Today the motor vehicle death rate has been cut by more than half, to just over 10 per hundred thousand population.
Then there's smoking and many other health hazards. The rates of lung cancer have leveled off and
started to go down, because so many people have given up smoking. Now, if only we could do something about the rising
Ultimately, the bottom line of life expectancy proves my point. And it's something to be thankful for, even if we don't always appreciate it.
If you were a 60-year-old male in 1970, you could expect to live another 16 years. But if you're a 60-year-old man today, you can expect to be around for 21.5 more years. That's an extra 5.5 years. Females haven't gained quite as much, but they started out with better numbers. The life expectancy of a 60-year-old woman was 21 years. Now it's 24.5 years -- so women are still outpacing men by three years.
And as far as terrorism goes, figures from CNN show that you are 400 times more likely to die from
a fall than from a terrorist. So, of course, if you see something, you should say something. But be even more vigilant at home when you're negotiating the stairs or going to the bathroom.