Awful BBC, Xenophobic Road Accident Reporting

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Mar 152010
 

Students die in India as bus plunges into river

Indian police officers look down from a bridge at the wreckage of a bus after an accident in Sawai Madhopur district, nearly 185 kilometres west of Jaipur, India, Monday, March 15, 2010. (AP / Rajasthan Patrika)

Indian police officers look down from a bridge at the wreckage of a bus after an accident in Sawai Madhopur district, nearly 185 kilometres west of Jaipur, India, Monday, March 15, 2010. (AP / Rajasthan Patrika)

The above headline is awful enough for the people involved, but in reality, it’s subject, a road crash, is common enough in my own country, the UK.

What is really bad is how the BBC is reporting this.  They should know better but essentially, they’ve reported verbatim the same “superiority complex” story being bandied about the globe in a “mass denigration” of India, (see here and here for instance), originally sourced from AP and which includes the objectionable phrase,

Road accidents claim hundreds of Indian lives every year. Most are blamed on bad driving or poor roads and vehicles.

There are two things wrong with this:

ONE:  The statistics are incorrect and they imply that somehow India is much worse than anywhere else.

TWO: The causes of accidents are reported as if they are specific to India, e.g. bad driving, vehicles, roads.  This is obviously wrong – my personal experience and the accounts of countless others tell me so….

Statistics

People are killed on the roads in far greater numbers than “hundreds” as the BBC and everyone else is saying.  Not only that, India’s figures are in the thousands, not hundreds, the same as every other country on the planet!…

You see,  ~4,000 are killed in the UK and ten times that, ~40,000 are killed in the USA!    Every year.

In the USA it’s so bad now that the main cause of death for people aged from 5 to 27 is on the road! (source)

Bad Driving? Bad Writing? Bad Editing?

So is it okay to compare bald figures?  What are they?

Of course, the statistics for India are hard to come by.  But this website for 1998 gives road deaths figures for India, North America and Europe as:

  • India:               217k
  • N. America:     49k
  • Europe:             66k

From Wikipedia, these are the (2008) figures for population of the three areas:

  • India:               1,150M
  • N. America:     528M
  • Europe:             830M

So from these figures, road traffic deaths per 100,000 persons are:

  • India:               18.8
  • N. America:     9.3
  • Europe:             8.0

So India is about twice as bad as the two major OECD areas in the world, for road deaths as a percentage of population size….  Not that we can all sit easy in our Western smugness….  there are still 10 people dying every day in the UK, on the road.

(I know the above calculations are back-of-fag-packet stuff and the data doesn’t line up correctly, date-wise.  As I said, Indian data is hard to come by. This document makes plain that the OECD median is 7.8 for 2007, which is close to my calculations, and my calculation uses figures from the same year for each geographical zone down a given metric.)

USA Paradox?

But what about the distance travelled?  Surely Americans drive more and thus crash more compared to their fellow Europeans which will lower their rates?

This document again makes plain that the above supposition is false!  When allowance is made for distance travelled, the USA fares only slightly worse than the UK for deaths per 100 million vehicle kilometres; 0.8 compared to 0.6

But this “slightly worse”, in percentage terms, is about the same as the whole variation across all OECD countries, N. America and Europe as seen above.  This means, that Americans DO drive farther, but they still crash at their same higher rate compared to Europeans.

Conclusion

Wolseley StreetWhere does this leave India?  As I said, the data is hard to come by.  But that’s not the point, is it?

The point is that the reporting of this bridge crash is being done in a mocking, superior way, and we have nothing at all to be smug about in the arena of road deaths.

NOTHING.

Nov 022009
 

Alan Johnson Sacks the Messenger

This, of course, relates to the recent sackings and supportive resignations of Government Scientific Advisors (see More advisers may go in drugs row) .

The home secretary faces the threat of more scientists resigning after sacking his chief drugs adviser Prof David Nutt for his comments about cannabis policy. Two members of the drugs advisory panel have quit in protest and others are to meet to discuss their next move.  Alan Johnson said Prof Nutt was sacked for “crossing the line” between giving advice and campaigning for a policy.

The point is that there’s a conflict between safety, facts, opinions, freedom, freedom of speech, duty, duty of care, education, class and knowledge.

Currently, a few tens of people each year die while taking ecstasy.   Most actually die from dehydration and related effects, not from the drug.

However, the drug is addictive in that it’s effects diminish with repetition and the user has to take more each time to obtain the same experience.

It can be argued that taking one drug leads to taking others, which seems a reasonable supposition.  But even so, the deaths due to drug taking, as opposed to the deaths due to crimes within the drugs supply industry are miniscule.

Far better would be to fully legalise all drugs but to have life imprisonment for illegal supply.  In this way, there’s be nothing to stop ‘curious’ people making their own drugs…

An even better, and logical proposition, would be to focus on preventable deaths as they stand in the real, accountable figures.  Start by checking the official government death statistics…  Oh!  And here they are (it’s a big PDF file)

https://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_health/Dh2_32/DH2_No32_2005.pdf

In this right-riveting read are all sorts of weirdness.

For instance, the number of deaths from CYSTITIS is greater than those due to those surrounding Ecstasy intake!!  Perhaps we should be focussing our energies here?

But even more shocking, is that the deaths due to NOT WEARING A CRASH HELMET while driving a CAR are more than Ecstasy and Cystitis combined.

If HM Gov were truly concerned about the welfare of it’s citizens, they would insist on the use of crash helmets now and also make it impossible for motor vehicles to exceed ANY speed limit by the use of automatic speed limiting devices?  Maybe install equipment to prevent vehicle movement if there’s alcohol on the driver’s breath?

But that removes the freedom of a person to drive how they like? – is the obvious riposte.  And why should I have to wear a helmet inside my car?  And if I want to drive while drunk, that’s my choice!

So?  And there we are back to my first statement: “The point is that there’s a conflict between safety, facts, opinions, freedom, freedom of speech, duty, duty of care, education, class and knowledge.

And in that, the scientist is absolutely right and Johnson has chucked away all ‘fair comment’ values of a free society and ended the debate by shooting the messenger.  Meanwhile the carnage on the streets continues both by vehicle and by the gun and knife.

Either way, it’s still carnage – and deaths from Ecstasy are a pimple in comparison.

© 1977, Strangely Perfect.