Chicago Traffic Deaths up in 2017; is it because of distracted driving or just a blip?


The Chicago Tribune has a front page story today by Mary Wisniewski about the rise in Chicago traffic deaths in 2017, 133 compared to 113 in 2016, an 18 per cent increase.

The article blames distracted driving, distracted pedestrians, low gas prices, a better economy, higher speeds and alcohol use.

But …

The story also notes that the average death toll from 2011 to 2015 was 126.2.  So why is Ms. Wisniewski comparing 2017 to one unusually low year instead of comparing it to the entire decade, which would provide a more useful comparison?  Indeed, when you combine the 2016 and 2017 death tolls and divide them by 2, you get an average of 123 — still lower than the 2011-15 average.  Maybe 2016 was just an outlier.

Comparing 2011-2015 to 2016-17, the numbers are virtually identical, within the margin of error.  But that wouldn’t be front-page worthy.

My concern is that someone in the state legislature will see the front-page headline and assume that there is a crisis when there isn’t a crisis.  This is how bad laws get enacted.

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