The most recent holiday road toll statistics provided fodder for a lot of armchair reckonings over the past week. There were fifteen fatal crashes this holiday season; last year, there were six.
Nobody has been keen to take credit for the increase, though we can be pretty sure that if the figures had halved instead of doubling, the Police would have credited tough speed enforcement measures and the drop in the blood alcohol limit.
And so we all look for stories to explain the difference. Perhaps everyone had their eyes on the speedometer rather than on the road for fear of breaching the tighter speed enforcement rules. Maybe strict enforcement of the 100kph limit led to more dangerous overtaking situations.
But the best explanation is likely that events like this can fluctuate a lot from year to year pretty easily.
When events are really infrequent, like fatal traffic accidents, small things can push around the total number of accidents. Blogger James K., at Ordinary Times, points out that this year’s holiday season was 2 days longer than last year’s, so we should have expected a twenty percent hike in accident rates solely on that basis. He also shows that, when we look at longer-term trends in the daily number of crashes, this year’s figures remain within the expected range.
They ran it with a picture of a car wreck; I prefer this picture, from JamesK.