Jun 7, 2023Liked by Mary Pat Campbell

Dear Mary Pat,

You've pointed out several times that one of the biggest stories in mortality - and especially for children - is the dramatic decline in motor vehicle deaths, over the last 50 years but very dramatically the last ~25.

Yet I doubt very many Americans are aware of this. In the popular press, this important fact seems to be like the story of the three blind men and the elephant, where people confidently describe the elephant based on feeling a small part of it.

(Maybe a better analogy is a distant black hole, or exoplanet, which has to be discovered by watching how things around it react.)

You wrote about how "guns" were breathlessly reported to now be the #1 cause of death for [a stretched definition of] children. Even with shifting the age of "children", they only got to claim this because of the very good and huge decline in auto accidents.

I ran into it again this week, where a writer, who is very insightful about the software industry, repeated the conventional wisdom that Volvo motors was punished in the American market because "Americans (besides a niche market of very smart ppl like the author) just don't care about safety."

A different framing: Volvo was an industry leader, and used their well-deserved reputation for safe vehicles to sell their more expensive cars at a premium. But ALL vehicles sold in the US have become much safer, reducing Volvo's competitive advantage.

The author laments that Volvo was aquired by Ford/Jaguar group, and that their engineering will be sacrificed to market demands. Quote:

".... If Geely declines to continue Volvo's commitment to structural safety, it may not be possible to buy a modern car that's designed to be safe."

-- (link below)

Of course, paying a premium for a car that will still protect you in a few very very rare crash scenarios is something most people would see as a kind of "luxury." What he is also saying is that driving a Volvo signaled that you were smart and likely to get rich, wheras now it just says rich.

(Maybe he has a red 1998 Volvo wagon with expired MA tags, 183,000 miles and a ski rack up on Craigslist and getting no intetest.)

You are just one (implacably logical) woman, how to beat back the tide of base rate fallacies and "Plato's Cave" journalism? I don't have an answer, but you give me hope.


Volvo comments are about halfway through. You would never guess this was written by a software engineer...LOL


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Thanks for the link -- and yeah, safety is one of those things that can be a environmental effect -- average size of vehicle & average speed, as well as standard equipment in vehicles makes a difference. When the marginal impact becomes smaller & smaller, people don't see the point.

I like reading really old newspapers (from over 100 years ago), and some of the coverage of collisions between autos and horse-drawn carts are amusing, as all the vehicles involved were going very slow. Nobody is even much hurt -- the pieces are written from an amusing point of view... the sole casualty being a woman's hat lost in a ditch, for instance. There is a threshold at which the collisions become serious.

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Jun 7, 2023Liked by Mary Pat Campbell

I drive a 1973 Chevrolet full-size pickup. It is exempt from CA smog testing, and lacks things like airbags, anti-lock brakes (you learn to do ABS yourself by rapid-tapping the brake pedal, kids used to learn that stuff from parents or Driver's Ed.) and, seatbelts! So maybe my assesment of risk is not representative.

It also means that I subscribe to a few gearhead forums, for the community and also crucial maintenance info. Last week, a picture of a Ford Model A seen on the road prompted a story about a car/horse collision:


Q: (... a horse in the rumble seat...?)

A: Well, half a horse. It was very alive and rather agitated.

[Grandma] was the textbook "woman driver" in that era. Used to pull the choke knob out halfway so she could hang her pocketbook on it. Then complained that the car ran like cr@p.

One day she's trying to back up and didn't realize there was a horse-drawn milk wagon behind her. (Yes, for her that was possible.) The brake on the wagon is locked, so the horse can't back up. It rears up on it's hind legs and plops its front legs in the rumble seat.

No idea how they got it out, but the legend lives large in family folklore.


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Stu has an old VW bus (almost as old as him!) that I rode in ONCE, and then I told him I required a racing harness if I rode in it again.

So that gives you an idea of my relationship w/ vehicles and risk-assessment. (and Stu's)

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