Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed in auto collisions. In 2012, there were over 34,000 fatalities in the United States alone. This ad from Pakistani newspaper the Frontier Post puts the issue in context.

Image from the Frontier Post.

Over the past 11 years, I have gotten around primarily as a pedestrian and transit user. I’ve had far too many close calls with drivers who are distracted or who are acting irresponsibly.

Just yesterday, a driver came to a four-way stop while I was crossing the street. But the driver was turning right, and since there was no traffic approaching from the left, she didn’t even come to a stop. In fact, she never looked to her right, where I was entering the crosswalk.

Cars have done a lot for the world, and I’m certainly not proposing that we get rid of them.

But I don’t think many people think about the risk and responsibility that comes with putting a key in the ignition. Your trip to the grocery store could easily turn fatal, as it does for thousands every year.

So next time you drive, remember that you’re driving a machine that could kill someone. Please use it responsibly.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.