Thursday, June 15, 2006

The insane math of driving stats

I was reading an article over at TechDirt on driving distractions. It seems the Canadian Auto Association is urging governments to ban all electronic devices from the vehicles of novice drivers in order to reduce distractions.

Maybe you agree. Maybe you don't. Doesn't matter.

What's interesting is that the CAA press release cites an article that claims that 8 out of 10 accidents have distraction as a major cause. That got me thinking.

I wandered over to the ICBC web site. ICBC is the government-run insurance and licensing body in the province of BC. They have a section on safe driving. I took a look at three articles: Excess Speed, Drunk Driving, and Sleeping while Driving.

Apparently in BC, ~40% of accidents are related to speed. ~25% of accidents are related to drinking. And between 20% and 40% are related to being drowsy.

Let's be generous here. I'll assume that *every* drunk-driving accident is also an accident where excess speed is a factor. That let's us subsume the drunk-driving statistics entirely inside the speed stats. However, it's a stretch to assume that more than a small percentage of the excess speed accidents are also the result of someone being asleep at the wheel. So, between being drowsy and driving too fast, we can account for an average of 70% of all accidents. This is assuming that EVERY drunk driving is also speeding, and that 10% of drowsy drivers are also speeding.

So, if we can account for 70% of accidents in these three categories, where does that put the 80% that are apparently caused by "distrations" according to the CAA? What about accidents caused by rain, snow, ice, gravel, and mechanical failures?

No matter how you look at it, somebody is lying here. If we are more realistic and assume that only half of drunk drivers are speeding, and that only 5% of sleeping drivers also have their foot to the floor, we now account for ~82.5% of all accidents, plus the 80% from distractions, plus rain, snow, ice, etc. Apparently we have nearly 170% of all accidents every year. AMAZING!

I'm so tired of people trying to get into my life for such meaningless things as driving with my iPod. All the while, ignoring things that really matter. Rather than mandating no-iPods in a car, why not actually make it difficult to get a driver's license? Why not require new drivers to actually show they can drive in all conditions, instead of a twenty minute road test? Why not re-test everyone every ten years? Why not make a driver's license a certified skill rather than a fundamental human right?

Given that car accidents kill more North Americans each year than cancer, smoking and Aids combined, it's inexcusable that we approach it with such stupid studies and solutions as this latest one.