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Reading the risks


We all know the old adage 'lies, damned lies and statistics'.

Take road accident statistics - we can use them to tell a variety of different, contradictory stories, depending on how we analyse them.

Do we measure by trip, by mile driven, by mile walked or cycled, by population or by exposure?

Consider the DTLR's Cycling fact sheet. If we were to take the European comparisons, a visitor from Mars might conclude that the UK, with three casualties per million population was one of the safest countries for cycling, while the Netherlands (16 per million), Denmark (12 per million) and Belgium (12 per million) were the most dangerous.

The reality is, of course, the complete opposite - British cyclists are subjected to 14 times the risk that a Dane would experience on the same journey.

We should not confuse danger with casualty figures. As with cyclists, child casualty rates reflect the reluctance of parents to allow their children to be exposed to road danger.

Increasing numbers of parents ferry their children to school by car: does this make the roads safe?

Alasdair Massie alasdair_massie@LineOne. net

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