Over many years I have noticed a term in the media, “Alcohol was a factor in the accident,” and like everybody else I unconsciously surmised that the driver must have been pissed behind the wheel.
That phrase is still in common use but more than ever today, words and phrases in the press are very carefully chosen to confuse and convince. When we really examine the phrase, “Alcohol was a factor in the accident,” what does it actually mean? Firstly when you single out anything as a factor you are implying there is one, two or more factors to be considered. In science they use the terms mono-factorial and multi-factorial when discussing disease. A mono-factorial disease has only one single cause whereas a multi-factorial disease has many possible causes, often combining to make the disease.
The multi-factorial variety is most unsatisfactory for researchers because it would be inaccurate and incorrect of them to single one factor out and blame it for the occurrence of the disease in question. However, in recent years, standards have dropped where correlation is now muddied sufficiently to become causation in the eyes of the more ruthless ambitious researchers. Showing correlation brings in very little cash but having your chosen ‘causation’ widely accepted is a money spinner and never mind the truth or inaccuracy of it.
I suspect in the case of the statement claiming that, ‘alcohol was a factor in the accident,’ we have yet another example of correlation being falsely labelled causation in order for certain parties to be seen to be doing something. You see, if you remove the complex factors that actually cause accidents and instead blame just one of them, you can react to that and receive the accolades for so doing. Shane Ross is happy to ignore drowsiness, defective machinery, bad roads, inclement weather, bad or stupid driving and excessive speed in favour of singling out the driver with one pint of beer on board as the real cause of road fatalities.
The bold Shane is proposing a bill when, if brought into law, will criminalize anyone driving with as little as a pint taken. His supporting choir of do-gooders are chiming about the growing scourge of drink-driving and the unnecessary deaths that result. But the Journal reported this week that drink-driving convictions in Ireland have fallen massively in the last ten years. “Figures released by the Courts Service of Ireland show that convictions for alcohol-related driving offences in the District Courts have been falling consistently since 2007. That year there were 11,062 convictions around the country. In 2016 there were just 2,709, a fall of 76%, begging the question, is the problem going away all on its own? If nothing were done would it simply disappear soon anyway?
As the article goes on to say, “However, the sheer scale of the drop seen would seem to suggest that blaming it entirely upon any one factor is illogical,” to which I would add, well said mate. But they also tell us that during that time, road deaths increased. “2016 saw 15% more deaths on Irish roads than a year previously,” they add. Could that just possibly be all the other factors that Transport Minister Shane Ross likes to ignore? Is the fact that with many more cars on the roads there is a statistically higher chance of more accidents. Indeed if you applied complete blinkered vision to it and decided to remove all death and injury from Irish roads forever then you could just ban all motor vehicles full stop. Before the invention of the internal combustion engine the streets were not full of cars. They were full of horse shit though. And in those days many died at the hands, (or hooves), of horses. People were kicked by a panicked horse, knocked down by one or rolled over by the carriages being pulled. Road deaths were high even then.
But of course, none of this has anything to do with road safety. It is a case of a pompous political ass in danger of being remembered for doing nothing during a long and undistinguished career. So employing inaccurate data from greedy researchers to justify his stance, Ross will happily remove yet another one of our freedoms in a personal effort to get noticed and remembered for something. Meanwhile road deaths will continue to increase because the wrong problem has been addressed utterly to the exclusion of all of the other real causes.