A Word About Bakken Traffic Accidents And Crime Rates
One of the favorite tactics of the oil-haters – those bent on leveraging legitimate frustrations over growing pains stemming from North Dakota’s Bakken oil play into fodder for their political agenda – is to cite crime and traffic accident statistics as evidence of the “dark side” of the oil boom.
But we should be careful in using statistics like that. If crime rates and traffic accidents go up that’s a legitimate concern and an appropriate topic for public debate. But we should be concerned with crime rates, and accident rates, not raw crime/accident numbers.
Usually a complaint about this issue will go something like, “There’s been a 50% increase in traffic accidents over the last four years!”
Now, technically this is true, but there’s another way to look at it. If you go from 100 traffic accidents in a given time period to 150 traffic accidents that is, in fact a 50% increase. But suppose in that same time period you went from having 100,000 vehicle miles driven on the roads in question to 200,000 vehicle miles?
The original traffic accident rate would be 0.1%. The accident rate after the 50% increase in the number of accidents would be 0.075%. Meaning, in other words, that despite the rise in the number of accidents the accident rate is actually decreasing.
Put another way, if there’s more miles being driven on the roads we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s more accidents. And just because there’s more accidents doesn’t necessarily mean the roads are less safe.
The same can be true of crime rates. If there are more people living/working in a given area then there will likely be more crime. What’s important is the per-capita crime rate.
You rarely get this sort of context from the media reporting these issues, and you certainly don’t get them from the political activists looking to scare people into supporting certain policies, but the context is everything.Tags: bakken, North Dakota News