Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The best lying headlines of the week: eating while driving more dangerous than driving drunk

Eating While Driving Significantly Increases Chances Of A Car Accident, Experts Say

Except that the article from CBS Los Angeles beneath this headline does not say anything of the sort.

Only one person is quoted in the article who says eating while driving is unsafe (so forget the plural), and--guess what?--he's not an expert.

He's a California Highway Patrolman who admits that eating while driving isn't illegal but that he's used a variety of dodges to get around the law to charge people anyway.

But don't let that stop you, pseudo-journalists.  Then WTOP picks up the story today, including this sentence: 
Experts tell CBS Los Angeles that eating while driving increases your chance of a car accident by 80 percent.
Except that if you click through the link (which I left in the sentence for your convenience) you go back to the original CBS story, and--guess what?--there is no such quote in the first story.  The California Highway Patrolman (who is apparently both expert and experts) NEVER says in the story that eating while driving will increase your chances of an accident by 80%.

This particular tempest seems to trace back to a University of Leeds study in 2012 that purportedly found that drinking a soda while driving was more dangerous than driving drunk.

And if you finally (it took me twenty minutes, and I'm good at this stuff) work your way back through all the hand-wringing articles about unsafe we all are because we drink a soda while we drive, you will discover the following useful pieces of information about the Leeds study:

1.  It was financed by an insurance company.

2.  No road tests were actually used in the survey, only driving simulators.

3.  Only ten drivers were actually tested, each in about 4-5 different travel conditions (urban, rural, etc.)

4.  Each test lasted four minutes.  This means that the entire study consumed all of about 200 minutes of observed driving time on simulators.

5.  The study was actually meant to determine the issues surrounding one-handed driving for any reason, not specifically eating.

In other words, the study is pretty much garbage.  It even condemned using a finger to punch in a new radio station.

But it has become oh-so-influential garbage.

That's why it pays to click through the links.


transparentchristina said...

This is how they make education policy. No lie.

kavips said...

Economic policy
Health Policy,
Insurance Regulatory policy.
Food Safety policy.

NCSDad said...

It is frightening how we can ignore the science. Doing other things w hile driving increases the chance for a mishap. Doing them more often, or with diminished capacity makes it worse. We can try to legislate around each capability and each distraction or ... hold people accountable for the accidents they cause and thereby encompass all the variables.

Anonymous said...

IT is SHOCKING how little you know about statistics. But I guess n one ever accused a libertarian of being intelligent at any aspect of life.

Steve Newton said...


Great charge (completely without specifics).

Thanks for playing.