London and Victoria Insurance and Bad Statistics

CTC & Guardian

[amazon-product align=”left” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”FFFFFF” height=”240″ region=”uk”]000728487X[/amazon-product]I’m indebted to this week’s CTC newsletter for pointing out an article by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian last Saturday (a week ago).   I’ve used one of Mr Goldacre’s articles before in some presentations I’ve done at work when pointing out the poor and devious ways that good statistics can be presented and the poor data collection and usages that follow.

LV (formerly London & Victoria amongst other  in/ass-urance names), did a survey, badly, and then got a plug on TV to talk about it.

They said it’s got really bad being a cyclist because the accident statistics have gone up.

Now read this link (Perils on the road to PR-reviewed data) and see Mr Goldacre pull the rubbish apart.

Of course, the trouble is that the damage is done.  Comparing the demographics and sheer numerical difference between Saturday Guardian readers and GMTV viewers (lots of children there..) makes the impact of the crap so much worse.  Even the words of the world’s oldest and largest cycling organisation were no avail.

British Judge & Bike Hat Stats

In another nutty bit of legal weaselling,  a case where a cyclist and motorcyclist collided (Smith v Finch 2009), the judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, ruled that the cyclist could have been found partly liable if wearing a helmet would have prevented or reduced his or her injuries

On the face of it, this appears sound.  However, the statistics from long-term data collection disprove the efficacy of cycle helmets except for very young children who have large heads relative to their thin, weak necks.

There are a host of reasons why.

But as an example of how statistics could be used in future.

Suppose I crashed in my car and damaged my head.  Using statistics, it can be proven that if I was wearing a helmet in my car, that would have reduced my risk of brain damage and the very same logic of the judge could be applied to me.

It sounds daft, but if everyone in the UK was forced to wear helmets when driving, at least 300 deaths a year would be saved.

But wait!  Many deaths “on the roads” aren’t in cars – they’re pedestrians!!! So really, when you leave the house to pop to the shop, you should wear a crash helmet because another 500 people a year will be saved!  When a car hits a person, the pedestrian’s head nearly always hits the top edge of the windscreen.  Ouch.

Now that’s the power of stupidly using statistics.

And using the judge’s logic, everyone killed walking down the street or mown down at a bus-stop by a car – it’s your fault!!!  (Only 0.7% of hospital admissions for head injury are cyclists involved in road traffic accidents)

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