Yes, I've found Doctorow to be hit or miss. Personally, I think the main driver behind over-concern to risk is the uneven news coverage given to these risks. MSM, not experience, keeps pedophelia and terrorism in the forefront of people's minds. It would be interesting to see the MSM start reporting tragic car crashes on a daily basis. There's endless material there. They could report the types of cars involved, the locations, the death tolls and images of the carnage... I bet we'd see calls for new legislation to fight the dangers of driving in no time.
An interesting point. One thing I think you're missing, however, is the "dingo ate my baby" angle. We fear that which we do not understand: mysterious strangers at the park, for example. How do we avoid the dangers of mysterious strangers at the park? Well, as the news will tell us, we do it by reporting all suspicious activity and keeping our kids close. How do we avoid dingoes eating our babies? We stay out of the Outback.
I can agree with that. You are probably right that people really don't want to be afraid of their cars, they are too familiar, so they aren't inclined to be. However, the MSM could probably freak people out if they started reporting statistics about traction control and accident rates. "Are you driving an uncontrollable car?!"