Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter carnage? What Easter carnage?

Every holiday period and long weekend we hear the screaching of our political masters and police force amplified through a largely unquestioning and subservient media about holiday road "carnage". Police patrols are increased, double demerit points are enforced and despite having had years worth of notice all police leave is routinely cancelled and motorists spend far more time looking at their speedos rather than where they are going.

So what is this carnage? How much more likely are you to die during one of these periods of carnage?

I did a little searching and did a little number crunching from this report found at Infrastructure Australia looking at the monthly road death tolls from 1993 to 2008. I haven't gotten into the full statistical analysis as it'd take me too long and secondly I haven't done much with stats for almost 20 years.

The monthly averages are:
January 140.125
February 130.6875
March 152.0625
April 141.5625
May 148.0625
June 140.5
July 141.1875
August 148.5625
September 141.5625
October 153.0625
November 140.0625
December 157.0625

Once you start looking at the daily averages thing even out a lot more, with December (5/day), October (4.9), March (4.9), August (4.8), May (4.8) having the higher daily averages. January (4.5/day), July (4.5), Februry (4.6), and November (4.6) are the safest months to travel on Australian roads. April in which Easter occurs has 4.7 deaths/day.

Now the road toll has come down quite a bit since then (1953 deaths in 1993 to 1464 in 2008) but from the figures we can see that our "deadliest" month, December, is only around ten percent more dangerous than our safest, January and July.

Taking the 2008 figure of 1464 road deaths we come to an average of just over 4 deaths a day, given that we're four days into to Easter holiday period simple maths will tell us to expect about 16 deaths, and that's close enough to what we've got.

Now none of this is meant to make light of the tragedy that deaths and injuries undoubtedly are but I'm just adding some perspective to the hype. People die at all times during the year on our roads and at roughly the same rate, high profile campaigns for a few weeks a year will do little to reduce the overall numbers, better roads, better training and more appropriate enforcement (when was the last time you heard of someone being booked for tailgating?) are the things which will make a difference.

Given the recent change of government in New South Wales and their attitude to speed cameras I will look on with interest for the next few months.

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