Friday, 16 January 2015

Nothing to see here: NZ road toll edition

I had a short op-ed in today's Herald. It's not online It's now online;* here's a clip. 
The most recent holiday road toll statistics provided fodder for a lot of armchair reckonings over the past week. There were fifteen fatal crashes this holiday season; last year, there were six.
Nobody has been keen to take credit for the increase, though we can be pretty sure that if the figures had halved instead of doubling, the Police would have credited tough speed enforcement measures and the drop in the blood alcohol limit. 
And so we all look for stories to explain the difference. Perhaps everyone had their eyes on the speedometer rather than on the road for fear of breaching the tighter speed enforcement rules. Maybe strict enforcement of the 100kph limit led to more dangerous overtaking situations. 
But the best explanation is likely that events like this can fluctuate a lot from year to year pretty easily.
When events are really infrequent, like fatal traffic accidents, small things can push around the total number of accidents. Blogger James K., at Ordinary Times, points out that this year’s holiday season was 2 days longer than last year’s, so we should have expected a twenty percent hike in accident rates solely on that basis. He also shows that, when we look at longer-term trends in the daily number of crashes, this year’s figures remain within the expected range.
They ran it with a picture of a car wreck; I prefer this picture, from JamesK.

* Thanks Sam and Thomas!


  1. If people / government were really serious about the road toll, they'd demand self-driven cars be introduced immediately and laws changed.
    Humans are too fallible - they are the weakest link TBH.

  2. I got a plan to lower the road-toll. It involves training the army to build a dual-lane state highway North to South/East to West
    I would start by building a Nation wide cycle way to boost local and international tourism. You gotta crawl before you walk and Rome wasn’t built in a day…
    I have over a decade of experience in heavy haulage with no serious accidents up to triple roadtrains. I know cyclists and trucks don’t mix
    Neither do cars and trucks for that matter
    My plan is a bit rough and ready and needs some fine tuning and a little polish – just like me
    If you or anyone has a better idea on how to get the State Highways built than me then I would like to hear it

  3. Am in total agreement about how the Police would have claimed credit had the road toll decreased, they can be so annoying.

  4. I like driving and will continue to do so. You can enjoy your robot car and I'll enjoy my 'freedom'

  5. Eric, It *is* on line:

  6. There is over-deterrence of minor speed and slighty over the limit drink driving offences and under-deterrence of serious and repeat offences including driving while disqualified.

  7. But Eric, if they didn't put a picture of a car crash in, how would anyone know what you were talking about? ;)