Students die in India as bus plunges into river
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….
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.)
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.
Where 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.