Alarming facts

A year ago I flagged something in feedly for a brief sarcastic comment, and never got around to it. Now that I’m having a clear out…

“It is alarming that a fifth of people killed or seriously injured on our roads in 2011 were involved in a collision where at least one driver was aged 17-24.″

-Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary, 25th March 2013

Isn’t it alarming how easily you can make something mediocre or meaningless sound alarming by prefixing it with “it is alarming that”? I mean, if you think about it for a moment, 17-24 is quite a large block of people — a fifth of the people aged 17-57 (though something less than a fifth of qualified drivers I guess) — and, though I don’t know off the top of my head the average number of drivers per collision, as the quote itself hints out, it’s larger than one. The quoted statistic tells you nothing about whether 17-24 year old drivers are over-represented in collisions (maybe they are, maybe there are proper stats on the subject, I don’t actually really care), and in fact when you think about it provides reason to believe they’re probably not. But it is alarming that a cabinet minister finds it alarming.

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