I guess the smart people are writing weblogs
Posted by aogFriday, 29 June 2007 at 07:41 TrackBack Ping URL

I been meaning to do this for a while, but the recent flap over extreme cluelessness at the Wall Street Journal has provided additional motivation.

My observation of WSJ cluelessness concerns this article about people wrecking exotic (high end expensive) cars. The story line is that more younger, less skilled people are now buying these cars, creating a wave of accidents, as in the lead sentence —

Call it a metaphor for a prosperous, risk-embracing age or just call it bad driving.

However, most of the quantitative data in the article supports a very different conclusion. For instance, First we have this factoid —

According to the California Highway Patrol, the total number of accidents involving Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses and Maseratis rose to 141 last year, an 81% increase from 2002

That sounds a big increase, doesn’t it? Yet a few paragraphs later we find out that

  • Americans bought about 8,400 “ultra-luxury” sports cars last year — more than three times the number from 2003
  • The accident rate1 for those cars has changed significantly since 2002
  • The accident rate for those cars is 1%, vs. a 3% overall rate

Seems to me that the increase in absolute numbers is easily explained by the increase in absolute number of such cars. On what basis, then, does the WSJ claim “bad drivers” are to blame? None that I could find in the article other than anecdotal. Even some of those are suspect as well, such as this one —

Stefan Winkelmann, president and chief executive officer of Lamborghini, a unit of Volkswagen’s Audi Group, says he’s aware of “four or five” incidents involving one of the company’s new 640-horsepower Murcielagos — a small fraction of the nearly 500 models the company sold last year.

4 or 5 out of 500 — hmmm, that’s right about 1%, isn’t it?

It seems to me that the author of the article is indulging in the same behavior as the folk in one of the articles anecdotes —

To compound matters, it’s tough to be inconspicuous when you damage a $150,000 automobile. After Mr. Aboubakare’s accident, several passing motorists snapped pictures while one leaned out the window of his pickup truck and shouted: “What an idiot!”

So much for the pretension that journalists are other than rude gawkers themselves.


1 I realized as I wrote this that I had presumed this was the annual accident rate, but the article doesn’t actually contain that claim. It’s another example of the innumeracy that “accident rate” is left completely unqualified.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
erp Friday, 29 June 2007 at 13:28

Great news and couldn’t happen to a nicer gal and guy.

erp Friday, 29 June 2007 at 13:30

The comment above was meant for a different post.

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