How Many Lives Did Dale Earnhardt Save?

Stephen J Dubner and Steven D. Levitt in the New York Times Magazine:

Dale_earnhardt_largeAnd how many drivers have been killed since his death in 2001?

Zero. In more than six million miles of racing — and many, many miles in practice and qualifying laps, which are plenty dangerous — not a single driver in Nascar’s three top divisions has died.

On U.S. roads, meanwhile, roughly 185,000 drivers, passengers and motorcyclists have been killed during this same time frame. Those 185,000 deaths, though, came over the course of nearly 15 trillion miles driven. This translates into one fatality for every 81 million miles driven. Although traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans from ages 3 to 33, this would seem to be a pretty low death rate (especially since it includes motorcycles, which are far more dangerous than cars or trucks). How long might it take one person to drive 81 million miles? Let’s say that for a solid year you did nothing but drive, 24 hours a day, at 60 miles per hour. In one year, you’d cover 525,600 miles; to reach 81 million miles, you’d have to drive around the clock for 154 years. In other words, a lot of people die on U.S. roads each year not because driving is so dangerous, but because an awful lot of people are driving an awful lot of miles.

More here.