In which I tell a half truth

In the year after Cheyenne, Wyoming reduced the speed limit to 25 traffic deaths in Laramie County more than doubled compared to the year before when the speed limit was 30. We need to fight further attempts to reduce speed limits

The first sentence is literally true, but misleading. (Terminology inspired by an important Supreme Court decision holding that literally true statements are not perjury.)

Want some practice debunking bogus statistics? Find out how I misled you. The official data I found said there were 6 fatal crashes with 7 deaths and 5 injuries in 2003, the ordinance changed in the middle of 2004, and in 2005 there were 13 fatals with 16 deaths and 12 injuries. Despite the big increase I doubt that the ordinance change had any measurable effect on safety. I have reason to suspect it had a slight negative effect, but I doubt I could measure the effect.

I’m admitting the data don’t back up my claim. Lots of people wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, bogus statistics and fantastic claims are good enough to get press coverage.

You’ve probably seen a story making the rounds saying how many thousands of people had been killed by speed limit increases. Somebody compared actual deaths to a number they said would have died if the limit were 55.

That’s neither literally true nor literally false. It’s an answer to a “what if?” question.

Fortunately, we did raise speed limits in America and saved fifty thousand lives. If you’re alive today, thank former NMA lobbyist Gail Morrison for convincing Congress to repeal the national speed limit in 1995.

If they can speculate, I can speculate too. And with the precedent set that reporters don’t question others’ claims, they had better not question mine.

Coincident with this latest instance of media taking the bait is another push in Massachusetts to lower speed limits. Somerville wants 20 mph “safety zones” which would cover a quarter of the city. Boston wants 20 mph everywhere. Other towns want 25 mph everywhere that isn’t 15 mph.

They’re pulling out a fraudulent study from a few years ago to make their case. I’ll explain why it’s a fraud later. In the meantime, practice your skepticism by telling me how my opening sentence was misleading. The truth is out there.

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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One Response to “In which I tell a half truth”

  1. anon says:

    Please post your analysis of the flawed study ASAP! Boston’s law to reduce the speed limit to 20 was just passed by the city council, so we need to provide some counter-evidence before it advances further.