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Robertson’s review of Traffic Safety by Leonard Evans
  1. L Evans
  1. Science Serving Society, 973 Satterlee Road, Michigan 48304-3153, USA; le{at}scienceservingsociety.com

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    L S Robertson’s review of my 2004 book Traffic Safety1 in the August issue of the journal2 is quite aberrant compared with eight other reviews found at http://www.scienceservingsociety.com.

    Another reviewer wrote “Evans’ work covers in remarkable detail the full range of important topics ... but his chapter The Dramatic Failure of U.S. Safety Policy is the showstopper”.3 This “showstopper” shows that while Canadian fatalities declined by 50%, US fatalities declined by 16%. I attribute this to a US narrow focus on vehicle factors supported by a giant litigation industry devoted to its own interests, not to safety.

    As one who supported and profited from that industry, it is understandable that Robertson should seek to discredit my book. The fact that all he could come up with were extraneous trivia adds support to my thesis. Vehicle factors cannot explain the huge Canada/USA difference in the raw data, because vehicles in both countries are similar; nor can demographic factors.

    In the quest for clarity and understanding I have debunked many hocus pocus opaque analyses that manage to find sought-after effects invisible in raw data. My 1991 book critiqued two much cited studies (one by Robertson) on the safety benefits of vehicle regulation. Analyzing the same data, one study reports absurdly high benefits, the other zero benefits. I characterized both as “the triumph of zeal over science, or perhaps even common sense”.

    One reviewer concludes “Evans has a clear passion for getting the right answers ... one senses that his agenda is simply to understand how to improve traffic safety” and another “Evans’s book dismisses much of the folklore very effectively”.

    It is common in data analysis to discard a point that departs widely from the trend when there are additional reasons for considering it suspect. Robertson’s review meets such a standard.

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