Friday, May 14, 2010

Junk research

Insurance.com is an online service where you can provide your personal information, then receive quotes from various companies for insurance policies.  The site collects some pertinent data from you, and apparently among that data (if you are looking for auto insurance) is a question about prior traffic crash claims. 

On Tuesday, insurance.com put out a press release touting The 10 Most Dangerous Cities for Drivers. Lincoln was ranked 10th.  Des Moines was ranked 4th.  Boston, St. Louis, Newark and Atlanta didn't make the top 10.  Hello, has anyone associated with the website ever driven in Boston?  Based on the description of their "research," here's how Lincoln gets named one of the most dangerous cities:  they calculated the percentage of all people who requested a quote from insurance.com that self-reported a prior traffic accident.  Do you think there might just be measuring truthfulness on web forms, here?  This is what I call junk research. When it gets picked up by the media, without any critical thought, it fries me. 

Nobody can convince me in any way, shape, or form that Lincoln is one of the most dangerous driving cities in the United States.  Unlike insurance.com, I know what our traffic crash data is, and what its trend is.  I also pay an insurance bill, and I know our cost of auto insurance is far lower than in many other parts of the country.  Real insurance companies rate risk based on claims history, and Allstate Insurance is one of the largest in the business.  Every year, Allstate publishes it's own list, based on the actual claims it receives from customers.  The Allstate America's Best Drivers Report provides the rankings of the largest 200 cities in the United States.  Last year's report lists Lincoln as the 14th best. Des Moines was 20th.  Allstate's methodology essentially inverts insurance.com's findings. 

Allstate's report isn't the only evidence that Lincoln drivers are actually pretty good.   I've blogged on the topic before.  I was amused by the comments on the Journal Star's website following the Thursday article. Whenever anything is published about driving, the comments immediately blossom into a thread of horror stories about Lincoln having the worst drivers imaginable.  You could Google "worst drivers" followed by any city's name, and find exactly the same kind of comments.  The best drivers, of course, are always those in the city where you used to live, where (as previously noted), the women are strong, the men good-looking, and the children all above average.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I drove big rigs for many years. I have been off the road now for quite some time but I think that the driving habits of the people in the cities I visited on a regular basis probably have not changed much. After all stupidity may be hereditary. My list of worst drivers in U.S. cities:
1.Worst has to be Boston.
2.El Paso, Texas during the M-F Mexican 500 that occurs from 3:00Pm to 6:00PM.
3. New Orleans ( although since Katrina many may have moved out).
4. New York City (especially the taxis).
5. Houston
The best drivers In My Opinion have to be L.A. or San Fransisco, except when there is FOG. Driving in California fog is absolute pure terror.

Gun Nut

JIM J said...

In Alaska their are 13 women to each man. That is an odd number.
But the men are odd, so it works.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

There's very little traffic where I 'drive'.

Anonymous said...

I saw this story yesterday, and the horrible methodology just jumped out at me. Of course, I don't believe journalism majors are required to take any stats courses, so it shouldn't be a revelation that most of them know next-to-nothing about it.

Tom Casady said...

9:14-

This is what happens when I wire story just gets published without anyone questioning the underlying facts. What really annoyed me is that it hit the news on the same day my boss was trying to convey an entirely different message about Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know where the "best" drivers are. Bet it's NOT Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I knew it would jump out at you too. Of course a lot of people getting quotes have likely had one or more (at fault) collisions - that's why they're looking for quotes; their rates recently went up due to their crummy driving record! We won't even start in on self-selecting samples. This one had me ranting about the news media having brain-dead news directors and editors, ranting at Journalism schools for graduating dimwits, and so forth.

Don't tell anybody, but my super-secret method for keeping my premiums low is to drive safely, defensively, and patiently. I know, it's revolutionary, but it seems to work.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, most people seem to believe everything they read in the news media. Just think how that LJS reporter could have done some simple research (call the Police Chief) and debunked the claim made by insurance.com. That would have been a story, now, not so much.

GIGO= garbage in, garbage out.

Anonymous said...

Gun nut,
same here. I drove OTR for 20 years. my list is quite a bit different.
1. Ann Arbor, Mi.
2 Denver, Co. (Probably due to that T-Rex project).
3. NYC.
4. I really hate to say this, but, Beatrice, Ne.
5.Manila, Philippines. (Not in this country, but having almost been killed twice there, I must include it).

Anonymous said...

I think we should give full credit to the person who wrote the sidebar to the piece. I'll quote the sidebar in full here:


Tell us why you hate Lincoln drivers

Having been officially deemed one of the most dangerous driving cities in the U.S. only validates what a lotta Lincolnites have felt all along.

We want to know what you hate most about driving in Lincoln. What's the most dangerous part of your driving day? Any tips on how to avoid such peril?

Send your horror stories, gripes and tips to Micah Mertes


Another young adult "journalist" who seems to know everything, though not about statistical methodology. Since he requested it, please e-mail him and let him know what you think of this piece, and his slant on it.

Anonymous said...

Chief-Safest place to drive in America is Mackinac Island.

2nd safest place, Yoder, Kansas.

Both have horse and buggy traffic. Probably no fatalities ever.

Worst place is LA, primarily because of traffic congestion.

256

stumble-tripping feet said...

without a doubt, California central Valley fog is the worst. Lincoln is nothing...The only real problems I've seen are working at St E's ER when grandma or grandpa decides they want to see if they still can drive in the snow. Otherwise, I'll take NE any day over where we're at in Oregon.

Anonymous said...

This incident would be in character. After all, when you're a meth-head that will assault an officer, no beating target is off-limits. More side effects of the pro-criminal, early-release way of things for violent offenders. Incarceration may not prevent recidivism, but it sure does forestall it.

Speaking of violent offenders, I bet that this one will get reduced to a misdemeanor by a (let me think a term you can print)...expedient...prosecutor, in exchange for a quick guilty plea. It wouldn't be the first time for this individual.

Tom Casady said...

10:44-

(Sigh). Welcome to my life...OUR lives.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

For the love of...is there a nutjob convention in town this weekend, or was this just coincidental? Anyway, I don't suppose you'd whisper the pre-test result on that powder he had, would you.