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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The police are cracking down

Various media are carrying a small Associated Press report on a 2008 Metro Initiative which supposedly reduced fatal crashes in Ohio's big cities. As usual in the media, it's pretty thin on details and big on how successful the government is. If the government says they succeed at whatever they do, I guess that's good enough...

The 2008 Metro Report on their web site tries to justify these claims. It seems faulty at best, misleading at worst. It compares average serious crash levels from 2005-2007 with crash levels during the 2008 enforcement period. Why average? Why not compare each year individually? If there were tons of crashes in 2005, less in 2006, more in 2007, and less in 2008, the averages quoted in this report wouldn't really tell us anything at all. Sadly, it doesn't look like they thought about that.

When you look at the serious metro crash totals in Table 5 on p.11, it indicates 34,997 in 2005, 33,619 in 2006, and 31,907 in 2007. This corresponds to a steady 4% and 5% reduction between years. However, when you get down to the serious metro crash totals in Table 17 on p. 23, there were 775 in 2008 and an average of 906 from 2005 to 2007. These numbers don't make any sense at all. If anyone sees where I'm going wrong, please let me know.

Table 14 on p. 21 contains traffic stop totals per month in 2008. If they really wanted me to believe their claims, they would include traffic enforcement totals and serious crash totals for each month between 2005 and 2007, and then compare these with each month of 2008. I suspect that if this was done, there would be a lot more variance than what we see here. Which would in turn lead us to conclude that aggressive police enforcement of the metro highways does not necessarily reduce serious crashes.

Putting out such flawed reports like this only hurts the credibility of the highway patrol. If the reports were just a little more detailed, it would probably hurt their cause even more. The media seems like a willing propaganda tool in reporting their claims but not really even bothering to look at the report to see if they are true.

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