[extropy-chat] Driver safety and the immortalist

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Tue Jul 6 23:52:53 UTC 2004

paul.bridger wrote:
> BillK wrote:
>  > In contrast, single-vehicle crashes represented 65% of crashes
>  > SUVs and 59% of crashes involving pickups.
>  > So SUVs and pickups seem to have a tendency to self-destruct.
> ...but SUVs and pickups (higher mass vehicles) have more accidents.
> Given that SUVs etc. cause more single car accidents, it's reasonable to 
> assume they cause more multiple car accidents, too. How annoying that SUV 
> drivers should cause more accidents, and then have higher survivability.

Absurd.  What makes you think SUVs "cause" more single car accidents? 
Flawed reasoning in an attempt to support your prejudices.

Correlation is not causation.  And there is a really obvious reason why
the statistics probably look this way.

The percentage of the vehicles sold which are SUVs and pickups varies
greatly between regions depending greatly on need and environment.  You
will notice that in places that have substantial winters or more rural
environments (a function of population distribution, not size), a much
greater percentage of the population drive SUVs and pickups than in more
suburban and temperate climates.  Depending on where you drive, what you
do, and at what time of day you do it, you may have difficulty getting
around in a Honda Civic and it won't be remotely as safe as driving 4x4,
all things being equal even if you ignore multi-vehicle collisions.  If
I lived in one of those places and could only have one vehicle, it would
be an SUV or pickup.

When I moved from balmy Silicon Valley to slightly more rural digs in
Nevada, my insurance rates increased, due entirely to increased
environmental hazards of driving in Nevada.  In winter, I usually drove
my 4x4 SUV when it was below freezing because it was a much safer
vehicle in winter road conditions than my expensive Euro sedan.  As did
everyone else.  And the biggest hazards for all these SUV and pickup
driving folks was either snow/ice or hitting one of the many large
animals that intermittently decide to run in front of your vehicle
(something having a large vehicle definitely helps with), neither of
which happens in Silicon Valley.  And all of which are single vehicle
accidents.  Does this mean that SUVs and pickups are inherently less
safe?  No, it means that people choose to drive SUVs and pickups in
environments that are inherently less safe because SUVs and pickups are
inherently safer in those environments.  As an example, look at the
spectacular carnage of animals and vehicles on the road to Burning Man
in Nevada sometime, almost all Californians who have no experience with
road hazards outside of other vehicles.  

SUVs and pickups are not distributed evenly in the population.  People
that need them and which will benefit most from the safety features they
offer will also be more likely to buy them.

In short, people drive SUVs and pickups in places where environmental
conditions make it far more probable that single vehicle accidents will
occur precisely because these vehicles are safer when faced with those
environmental hazards.  Switching everyone in those places would make
them LESS SAFE, not more safe.  The entire country doesn't have road
conditions like your little corner of suburbia.  I buy my vehicles to
match local driving conditions (currently Silicon Valley, so a small
commuter car), and as far as I've been able to tell in my travels, so
does the rest of the population on average.

j. andrew rogers

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