Looking beyond the "Facts"

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From 13-Feb-2003:

OK, my second entry, and it’s only five days after my first… I’ll get the hang of this yet.

Actually, I think the main reason I haven’t written in the past five days is that I’d just be hitting on the same topic as last time (The pending Iraqi war). Now, I found something else I want to talk about.

On the front page of this morning’s USA Today, they have one of “Snapshot” charts. This one cites that “large trucks represent 4% of the registered highway vehicles, but are involved in 12% of the fatal motor vehicle crashes”. That makes large trucks sound very dangerous— but are those facts telling the whole story?

Those fact are probably true, but not particularly relevant. Most cars are on the road about 2 or 3 hours a day, and some much less. Most large trucks are on the road 10-12 hours a day. So, if we were to compare miles driven per accident, we’d be closer to parity – and maybe even tipped in favor of the trucks as being safer. Plus, this is only counting “fatal” accidents “involving” large truck. Two important points to note here. If there’s an accident involving a passenger car and a large truck, there’s a very good chance of a fatality in the car. So, it’s quite possible (I don’t have the figures available) that cars are more frequently involved in fender-benders, but when a truck becomes involved, the same type of accident become fatal. Further, if two cars were to have a fender-bender right next to a large truck, there’s a good chance that the truck will be “involved” simply because they don’t have the mobility to get out of the way.

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