Hurtful words

If you call an accident a crash, does it hurt more? According to Denver police the answer is yes. The number of fatal “crashes” in 2018 was higher than the number of fatal “accidents” in any of the previous 12 years. To the surprise of police, politicians, and federal bureacrats, changing the name did not improve traffic safety.

Adding cameras and writing 9% more tickets didn’t help either. Even talking about “traffic violence” instead of safety failed to turn the tide.

Yes, Denver has gone full Vision Zero.

Similar news came out of Los Angeles last year. Officials there chanted “Vision Zero” while waving a dead chicken over a cauldron of Microsoft Word files. Go forth and ticket! Two legs good, four wheels bad! And police heard the word, and went forth and ticketed, and pedestrians died even faster.

Don’t worry, the dead chicken was made of tofu.

New York City saw a similar effect after launching Vision Zero. The attempt to help pedestrians at the expense of drivers was followed by an increase in pedestrian deaths and a decrease in driver deaths.

I have seen claims that pedestrian deaths were lower in later years. I don’t know if those were legitimate numbers or cherry-picked.

Good numbers are shouted from the rooftops and bad numbers are buried in reports. If a change is followed by a year-on-year decrease in accidents/crashes/violences it’s a success and the answer is more of the same. If a change is followed by an increase, the answer is also more of the same.

In Denver, the failure of traffic cameras means there aren’t enough of them. It can’t mean that they don’t work because that would be heresy.

Traffic incidents of any kind have huge random fluctuations. Imagine you’re betting on a coin flip. Heads you win tails you lose. Or in transportation policy, heads I’m a genius tails that’s a bad coin let’s try again.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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