For those who don’t know, I am often fascinated by statistics. It’s interesting the things you can prove, and the things people think they prove by misinterpretting statistics. Here’s an example:
For young males, driver fatalities rose by 1 percent [from 1994 to 2004], compared with a 15-percent increase for young females
It’s easy to say that the younger population of females consists of worse drivers than a decade prior, but it’s more likely the case that females are driving more, which puts them into more “possible accident” situations. Statistics continually claim that young male drivers are worse, but they never compare all of the relevant factors. How much do the two genders drive? Which gender is at fault more frequently? What vehicles do they drive?
I commonly hear people saying things like “SUV’s are safer than cars.” They point to statistics that show SUV occupants are less likely to be killed in an accident, ignoring statistics from sources such as NHTSA that suggest an SUV hitting a car is six times more likely to kill the car’s occupants than if it were a car-to-car collision and four times more likely to roll. Maybe we should all drive tanks around, since they are probably even safer than SUV’s! I think the rough translation is “I should be able to kill you regardless of which of us made the mistake, because I bought an SUV.”
People often blame speeding directly for accidents. Speeding doesn’t cause accidents, it lowers the amount of time available to react to a potential accident. According to the NHTSA, speeding contributed for 30 percent of fatal crashes. The other 70 percent were caused by slow drivers in the left lane (okay, so I made the 70 percent part up, but it might have some truth to it).
Here are some more statistics that might make you think twice about pre-conceptions:
[For accidents involving trucks greater than 10,000lbs, a] total of 5,190 people died (12% of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2004) and an additional 116,000 were injured in those crashes. … In 2003, large trucks accounted for 3 percent of all registered vehicles and 7 percent of total vehicle miles traveled
For every age group, the fatality rate per 100,000 population was lower for females than for males. The injury rate based on population was higher for females than for males in every age group, except for people over 74 years old.
After an exhaustive amount of research, I finally came across a useful study that took into account gender, accidents, and miles driven! At last, researchers that think! The John Hopkins report (from the June 1998 issue of Epidemiology) says this:
Overall, men were involved in 5.1 crashes per million miles driven compared to 5.7 crashes for women, despite the fact that on average they drove 74 percent more miles per year than did women.
The investigators determined that about half of the 3.1-fold difference between the sexes’ fatal crash involvement rates was due to the fact that males’ crashes were more severe. Another 40 percent was due to the fact that men, who on average drove many more miles than women, thus had a greater opportunity of being in a crash; and 8 percent because of gender differences in “crash incidence density,” the number of crashes per million person-miles.
Regardless of what the statistics say, the majority of bad drivers I personally see are females; by “bad drivers” I mean things like changing into an occupied lane, often without ever realizing what they did. With that said, the majority of stupidly aggressive drivers are young males, probably below drinking age. They’re the kids that think giant primer-gray wings on a FWD car are cool. Regardless of where you are in the statistics, in the end, insurance rewards the terrible drivers and robs the good ones.