The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Conservatives and libertarians complain about liberal media bias. I think one reason we find the left-wing slant so irritating is that while many liberal journalists imagine themselves to be intellectually superior to their political opponents, their product is often lacking in intelligence or perspective. Occasionally this is malevolent (q.v. New York Times, The), but most biased writing is probably produced unaware.

For instance, take a look at this San Francisco Chronicle article on hit-and-run accidents in California. The authors (Michael Cabanatuan and Erin McCormick) wrote a good piece and put some effort into it; for instance, they attached a figure showing hit-and-run accidents as a percentage of all fatal accidents in the 50 states. But then they decided to use a hackneyed and unfortunate phrase:

An abundance of unlicensed drivers, the proliferation of wide, busy thoroughfares and intersections, California's car culture, fear of strict penalties for drunken driving and the large number of drivers driving without auto insurance all share the blame.

(Emphasis mine.) In my experience "car culture" is liberalese for "those damn polluters who won't ride rapid transit like good citizens." The only further explanation of what "car culture" might mean:


And then there's the state's reliance on cars, highways and driving.

"A lot of people think it's California, and they have the right to drive," Chew said. "And some people's livelihood depends on the ability to drive; it's that kind of state."

"Car-dependent California". As opposed to car-independent Wyoming, where everyone walks from Casper to Cheyenne. It's kind of scary to think that two grown individuals, who write newspaper articles that tens of thousands of people read, can be so insulated as to think that being dependent on a car is an abnormal state. Look, if someone told you that their middle-class and employed friend did not own a car, you could pinpoint that oerson's location to one of a few cities: Boston, New York, Washington D.C. -- and San Francisco.

It's not the car culture that contributes to hit-and-runs; it's the pedestrian culture. This counter-theorem nicely explains the distribution of hit-and-run crashes by state. States that have a high percentage (4% or more) of fatalities involving hit-and-runs are either heavily urbanized, or heavily immigrant. (The article did a good job explaining that illegal immigrants are uninsured and terrified of being caught after an accident and deported; also, immigrants tend to be poor, and poor people do have to walk.)

By the way, don't you think Montana might count as having a "car culture? For a few years the state had no speed limit. Yet Montana's percentage of fatalities involving hit-and-runs was in the lowest category, 1 to 2%.

Update: Evan Kirchhoff adds his own commentary, including the useful statistic that California ranks 48th in roads per capita.



Post a Comment