Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities
by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.
The number of alcohol-related traffic deaths increased by only 19 fatalities between 2001 and 2002 (17,400 to 17,419), according the official estimate of the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of course, every single alcohol-related or other traffic fatality is a disaster and we must continue to reduce such accidents.
In absolute numbers, that’s an increase of about one-one thousandth percent, or as the Associate Press correctly reported, it was “up slightly.” Because the NHTSA statistic is an estimate that is assumed to vary either higher or lower than the true number by an unknown degree, statistically-speaking it is unchanged. Therefore, Reuters News Service correctly reported that alcohol-related traffic fatalities “remained unchanged.” Because passenger-miles driven increased by over two billion miles during the same period, according to NHTSA, alcohol-related traffic fatalities continued their long-term decline in terms of miles driven.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) saw things differently and quickly issued a press release deploring the rise in alcohol-related traffic fatalities as part of an on-going epidemic. It used the news as an opportunity to call for a multi-billion dollar program including a variety of crackdowns on drivers.
For more on MADD, visit Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
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