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Editorial: Tickets and accidents

Veterans Memorial Highway has served as the scene of multiple fatal accidents over the years. — Compass file photo
Veterans Memorial Highway has served as the scene of multiple fatal accidents. — Compass file photo

Sorry. The kneebone ain’t connected to the thigh-bone.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful information.

Early last week, the CBC obtained information though the province’s access to information legislation that showed that, during August of this year, the number of speeding tickets written in the province under the Highway Traffic Act dropped by 40 per cent. During that same period, there was a spate of serious highway accidents, with 18 deaths in a span of seven weeks.

Obviously that information raises a question of causality: putting the two elements together in the same story suggests a direct relationship.

The only problem is that the only voice making that connection is the CBC itself.

There are simply too many variables in the equation for anyone to simply say, “fewer tickets written immediately causes more deaths.” If that was the case, we could simply stop road deaths by writing as many tickets as possible.

Can you draw a direct causal link between the two?

No, obviously you can’t. There are simply too many variables in the equation for anyone to simply say, “fewer tickets written immediately causes more deaths.” If that was the case, we could simply stop road deaths by writing as many tickets as possible.

The flawed argument form known as false causality usually follows the structure: “Event A happened. Event B happened after Event A. Therefore, Event A caused Event B.”

Correlation alone is not enough to demonstrate causation.

Here’s an example: crime rates traditionally rise in summer; people eat more ice cream when it’s hot. Therefore, crime is caused by ice cream.

There are many other variables in road crashes, including weather conditions, road conditions, the prevalence of drinking and driving, vehicle maintenance and the list goes on. Were drivers even aware fewer tickets were being written? If they weren’t aware until now, how could the reduction in tickets written have affected their driving behaviour and caused accidents?

Have the accidents that did occur been directly connected to ticketable officers by drivers involved in the crashes?

There’s an awful lot that’s not answered by a simple comparison of two columns of tangentially related numbers.

That being said, increasing enforcement is one of the only ways that we can try and control the almost-constant speeding and other bad driving habits in this province.

Short of creating a device to disable handheld cellphones in moving vehicles, the best form of persuasion we have is the financial “stick” of fines and increased insurance costs.

While reducing the number of tickets can’t be singled out as a cause of fatal accidents, the information should give us reason to pause, and we should be able to get an explanation for the dip in the number of tickets. It certainly wasn’t because everyone was suddenly a better driver.

Something else to think about? Tickets, in themselves, don’t cause accidents.

Drivers do. Drivers like you. Don’t decide how to drive based on the tickets you might or might not get.

Decide based on the lives you might save — including your own.

 

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