Thursday, January 23, 2020

Not How That Works, Part Whatever

     I was cooking breakfast and half listening to the morning news on TV when a story caught my ear: There was a new report out that ranked traffic safety in each state.

     Wondering how Indiana had placed, I paid attention, and what do you know: we're about in the middle of the pack.

     But the rating isn't for the death rate, or the accident rate -- it's for the number and kind of driving safety laws each state has!

     Show of hands, class -- who can explain why this metric is risible?  All of you?  Very good!

     But just in case, let's go over it: counting "safety" by looking at the rules intended to promote safe behaviors tells us nothing about how well those rules work.  It tells us nothing about how faithfully those rules are obeyed.  It doesn't even tell us how well those rules are enforced!

     It's still an interesting report.  You can read it here.

     For data at how safe it is to drive in the various states, you can look here, and get the fatality rate per 100k population and per hundred million miles traveled.  At a glance, Indiana's about in the middle there, too.

     What I'm not finding in a quick search is any kind of correlation study, not even an informal comparison of death or accident rates versus laws aimed to make drivers safer. You'd think that would be a key piece of information for planning, and yet--  Nothing.

     More laws does not necessarily mean better laws; if you were thinking that logical fallacy only showed up in the hotly-contested debate about gun laws, guess again.  Driving safety is a far less divisive issue, with statistics that are much easier to find, and yet here we are.

     Quantity is a wonderfully useful metric for ball-bearings or new home construction and all manner of mass-produced goods.  Intent, too, is a fine metric: you certainly ought to know what you're setting out to accomplish.  For laws, however, it might be useful to look more closely at quality and results, preferably in as impartial a manner as possible.

     Just a suggestion.


JimBob said...

With that sort of attitude young lady, your political career will be very short.

rickn8or said...

JimBob, I think that's exactly her plan.

But "the more laws we have, the safer we are" mindset perfectly describes the people that write firearms laws. "It's easy and you don't have to know the first thing about them!"

But I'm thinking "the more laws we have, the bigger the revenue stream for those that violate them."

Anonymous said...

Strange - Texas and Indiana run neck to neck on deaths per 100,000 (12.8 - 12.9). Yet Texas has 1.29 per 100 million miles vs. 1.09 for you Hoosiers.

You Yankees are lazy !! :^)

I'm guessing West Texas where distances are measured in six packs might be part of the reason. We also have a fair share of illegal alien driver traffic too, but that is just a guess.

Rob K said...

Sadly, laws seem to have become mass produced goods in this modern age.

Unknown said...

I know that a quick perusal of the website of the National Motorsists Society will net descriptions of studies from decades ago to the present showing that speed-limits either have no effect on safety, or, that it is safest to set speed limits at the 85th percentile and that variation from that either up or down will be less safe.
They somehow seem to omit all the ones with ambiguous results or the some of the more recent negative ones post the recent spate of speed-limit increases to 75MPH on interstates.

I've noticed a thing lately in the local press, a more-than-usual effort by homeowners to get their street's speed limit reduced to 35MPH or less. In my local area, I've discovered that there is a 95% chance that if I read such a report in the local rag, I can drive over to that neighborhood and find one of those shiny new glorified golf-carts known as a "Neighborhood Electric Vehicle" parked in front of one or more houses - use of such buggies is restricted in my state to streets with limits 35 or lower, so too bad for thru traffic that would prefer a sensible speed limit, local residents are going to invent "safety" reasons why the speed limit must be below that threshold all day every day until they are allowed to use their toys on the public road.


Will said...


The 85th percentile speed limit was DESIGNED AND INTENDED to enhance the writing of speeding tickets, nothing else.

The single best safety enhancement that has been DOCUMENTED BY THE GOVERNMENT is to remove ticket issuing police from the roadways.
I first heard of this back in the 70's in "Car and Driver" magazine, IIRC. What happened was that every time a police force stopped writing tickets, ie: going on strike, the accident and fatality rates dropped, and stayed depressed until the cops returned to business as usual.

I saw this personally in NJ in the first half of '05, when the NJ State Police, responding to allegations of bias, stopped writing tickets, and essentially stopped patrolling the roads and highways. After 6 months, most of the cities and towns were going bankrupt, since a LARGE portion of their revenue was generated by sharing the proceeds of speeding tickets.
This bit of news was included in a newspaper article that pointed out the puzzling fact that the roads had gotten safer during the strike, and listed the numbers from the government's data.

What is sad is that when I have mentioned this situation to various people over the years, they have almost uniformly stated that that can't be true, and I must be making it up.

People have been brainwashed into thinking that the police are a force for good. That hasn't been true since the start of the "War on (some) Drugs"TM, approx 1970 or earlier. Since their focus became "Officer Safety", they have further morphed into a public hazard.