Speed is a major factor in car crashes

Dear Editor,

Many people use statistics to prove a point favorable to their position on a topic, but some fact-checking can shed more light on those statistics. A case in point is the letter from Tom McCarey, writing as a representative of the National Motorists Association in the March 30 Times Observer, in which he voices his opposition to legislation allowing community police departments to use RADAR in speed enforcement.

He states that according to data from the NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (which he misidentifies incidentally), that only 1.6% of 2,700,000 accidents in 25 states are caused by speeding. He fails to explain why 25 states are included, rather than all 50, and what one year period is used. We can probably assume that this statistic includes all fender-benders and other minor traffic mishaps.

According to the NHTSA website (https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/speeding), however, speeding was a contributing factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2018. This holds true in Pennsylvania statistics (https://www.penndot.gov/TravelInPA/Safety/Pages/Crash-Facts-and-Statistics.aspx), where during the five year period of 2015 through 2019 23.5% to 26.7% of all fatalities were speed-related. Alcohol-related fatalities were very similar, ranging from 25.0% to 28.8%.

So speed is, in fact, a major concern in street and highway safety, and speed enforcement helps protect us. If any of you have ridden bicycles on city streets and cars fly by at “8 to 16 mph” over the posted speed limits, you know how harrowing that can be.

I do believe that RADAR should be used as an enforcement tool, not as a revenue generator, so some safeguards would be appropriate. Most of us are familiar with communities, some in our area, that use speeding ticket revenue to balance their budgets. That’s not a way to welcome visitors to your community.

In short, beware of statistics in letters and editorials that appear to prove a point. It reminds me of a joke from a statistics class where job candidates are asked what 2 + 2 equals, and a statistician asks “What do you want it to be?”

Don Reed



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