Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

When you read the words planes, trains, and automobiles you probably think of the classic 1987 film starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Steve Martin plays the role of Neal Page who is trying to get home to Chicago to be with his family for Thanksgiving. A snowstorm blocks all travel and he is forced to get creative on finding his way home using different forms of transportation. In this film, Neal ends up traveling alongside Del Griffith played by John Candy. In several different humorous situations, Neal and Del almost end up dying as they try to get back to Chicago. On top of these near-fatal accidents, Neal almost ends up wanting to kill Del because of how annoying he has become on the journey.

This got me thinking about death and what are some of the leading causes of death. Morbid I know. Stick with me for just a moment.

Let’s look at some facts

What about deaths related to planes, trains, and automobiles?

Do you know how many people died last year due to airplane accidents?

According to ASN (Aviation Safety Network) in 2018, there were 15 fatal airline accidents. Those 15 accidents led to a grand total of 556 deaths.

How about accidents involving train and automobile collisions?

According to the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration), there were 2,214 collisions in 2018. Those collisions resulted in a grand total of 270 deaths.

How about car accidents?

According to the National Safety Council in 2018, 40,000 people lost their lives in automobile accidents.

Let’s total those three categories up.

556 + 270 + 40,000 = 40,826 total deaths from planes, trains, and automobiles in 2018.

Any death as the result of an accident is tragic. Please don’t think that I am being insensitive and reducing people and death to nothing more than numbers. Tragic loss is something that changes the lives of survivors forever.

Where am I heading with this? Thank you for being patient. We are almost there!

Think of the first category of fatal plane crashes. 15 total last year. I would be willing to bet you that all 15 were headline news on almost every single media network across America. Whenever there is a fatal plane crash there is an in-depth investigation. No expense is spared in making sure that it doesn’t happen again.

The next two categories, trains and automobiles also garner a lot of attention when there are fatalities involved. Campaigns against drinking and driving are pushed heavily. Campaigns about clicking your seatbelts are pushed heavily. Campaigns against texting and driving are pushed heavily. Campaigns against being under the influence of things other than alcohol are gaining traction.

Now, what if I told you there was something out there that claims more lives than the deaths caused by planes, trains, and automobiles combined that no one talks about? Would you believe me?

Let me give you the number. 47,173.

Do you know what caused 47,173 deaths in 2017? That is a grand total of 6,347 more deaths that planes, trains, and automobiles combined in 2018.

I’ll give you a hint. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States last year. That is right. It is in the top ten and largely it goes untalked about.

What is it?


Suicide claimed the lives of 47,173 people in 2017. On average that is 129 people a day.

Imagine if 129 people died every day as the result of fatal plane crashes. Do you think anyone would ever get in a plane again? Not likely! The air travel industry would come to a crashing halt. It would be headline news on every network. It would be the only thing you would see in your social media feeds. It would become the top campaign topics in all upcoming political races and debates.

129 daily deaths and yet nearly no one is talking about it.


I believe suicide largely goes untalked about because of its direct link to mental health.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) nine out of ten deaths by suicide, 90%, involved people who were affected by mental illness.

There is such a negative stigma around mental illness that people typically choose to suffer in silence. This should not be!

43.8 million people experience mental illness in a given year. 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness (According to NAMI).

80% of all disabilities go unseen by the naked eye. Mental illness is one of the top hidden disabilities.

People affected by mental illness are at more risk of suicide than the general population. They should not have to suffer in silence because of the negative stigma that exists around mental health. They should be given the help and assistance that they need.

What if we treated the epidemic like we treated fatal plane crashes? What if we treated this epidemic like we treated fatal train crashes? What if we treated this epidemic like we treated fatal car crashes?

We should not treat them differently.

Just something to consider for the #MonthOfMentalHealth.

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