Arizona Republic Article Shameful

Today, the Arizona Republic printed this article based on a very slanted press release by the DPS about the alleged success of the photo radar program. The reason why the article is shameful is that they did nothing to question the press release or the data. Obvious concerns:

  • Data cherry-picked to a period of 80 days, not coincidental with any standard time frames. AZ Republic should have insisted on monthly data, quarterly data, or annual data. To select a “random” 80 day period indicates that the data and the report is suspect.
  • Data shown only since 2004. If you look at accident data over longer periods, it’s easy to see the natural variance in accident events. Take the accident statistics from the City of Phoenix for example. The data from 1995 to 2006 shows a variance of almost 19%, with the lowest number of accidents in 2003.  All of this when the population of the city has grown tremendously and cars have gotten increasingly safer and without any widespread or significant changes in enforcement.
  • The Arizona Republic failed to point out that correlation does not equal causation. For example, if most shark attacks occur in the summer, and ice cream sales surge in the summer, one cannot make the connection that shark attacks cause people to buy more ice cream.
  • The report fails to specify any data collection methodology or meaning.

It’s also rather interesting that the reporter failed to mention that the alleged success of this program is the opposite of the increased accident rates demonstrated in studies done in other locations.

Shame on the Arizona Republic for accepting the report at face value and not questioning the information or getting more information before publishing it.

Later added (9:00pm): We’re not the only ones questioning the data. The East Valley Tribune is reporting that AAA is questioning DPS’ report.

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